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Bail bondsman testifies in Strong trial
Though he could not provide specific details when answering some of the questions asked by the prosecution about the day, bail bondsman Doyle McCurley, as his mother and sister had previously done during the trial, testified Thursday that he told Yuma police on several occasions that Preston Strong was at his office the day he was accused of killing a Yuma physician nearly five years ago.
“I believe I did, but I can't swear to it,” McCurley said.
McCurley, who said Strong was nothing more than an acquaintance, testified that he remembers mentioning to his sister and mother that, due to other clients having done so in the past, he was uneasy about Strong spending so much time at their office on Nov. 1, 2007, because he thought he was going to skip town, which would cause him to forfeit the amount of the bond — meaning McCurley would have to pay for it.
“The longer he stayed, in my mind I'm thinking he is taking off and I'm stuck with this bond.”
However, when asked by prosecutor William Katz, of the Yuma County Attorney's Office, if he had told prosecutors in a recent meeting that he didn't know if he had specifically been asked by Yuma police about Strong's whereabouts the day of the murder, McCurley said he had, but added that he would have told police Strong was at his office whether they had asked about it or not.
McCurley also testified that he had been interviewed several times by Yuma police in the years since the murder, with the first time being in December 2007 when he spoke with two officers while standing outside his building.
“The police came to us four years ago. We didn't go to them.”
Defense attorney Kristi Riggins asked McCurley if he felt his family has endured any type of hardship over the years for being defense witnesses and asked him to provide some examples. McCurley said he believed they had and in one instance, although the citation was later dismissed, McCurley said, his sister was followed by a Yuma police officer along 4th Avenue before being pulled over and ticketed for having run a stop sign in Winterhaven.
In another instance, he talked about his nephew, who he said prosecutors waited nearly a year until he turned 18 before filing felony charges against him so they could charge him as an adult. At Katz's objection, Superior Court Judge John Nelson stopped McCurley, saying the testimony wasn't relevant to the case.
When responding to another line of questioning, McCurley said he had been following the trial through the media and was upset about the way other members of the family had been questioned by the state, saying it seemed as though prosecutors didn't consider their testimony reliable.
“I don't care if you call me a liar, but don't call my mom one,” McCurley answered defensively.
Before McCurley left the stand, Katz asked the judge to inform McCurley that he, like all of the other witnesses subpoenaed to testify, not follow any media coverage of the trial, which Nelson agreed to do.
“There is a prospect that you could be called back to testify,” Nelson said.
Yuma Police Officer Ruben Perez, who met with the people who found Gill's cell phone the day after the murder, also took the stand Thursday. Perez testified that the phone had been found near the East Main Canal near 16th Street.
Perez, who also helped serve the search warrant at Strong's residence on Nov. 5, 2007, testified that the phone was several feet away from where the asphalt path along the canal meets the concrete sidewalk. He also testified that the location was about a mile to a mile and a half away from where Strong was living at the time.
The body of 62-year-old Yuma physician Satinder Gill was found dead inside his home at 4596 W. La Quinta Loop on Nov. 2, 2007. He had been suffocated and had blunt-force trauma to his head. A large sum of money was missing.
Strong has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of kidnapping, one count of armed robbery, one count of burglary, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of attempted arson in the case.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.