Detective questioned about evidence from murder scene
The murder trial of Preston Strong resumed Tuesday with the defense continuing its cross-examination of the detective who investigated the homicide.
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 murder of the Yuma physician Dr. Satinder Gill nearly five years ago.
Sgt. Jeff Ruby, a homicide detective at the time, was on the stand again Tuesday, testifying about the evidence collected from Gill's home.
Directing his attention to one of several photos she used throughout her questioning, defense attorney Clare Schum asked Ruby if impressions found on the carpet at the crime scene appeared to be footprints, and if it was possible to test them to determine what type of footwear the suspect had been wearing and the size of the foot.
“I definitely see what appears to be shoe markings in there,” Ruby said. “It's possible depending on the texture of the carpet.”
He added that if the carpet impressions aren't photographed and preserved when they are found, any potential to possibly identify them is lost.
Assuming the power cord from a laptop computer from the living room was the same one found in the bathroom with Gill's body, Schum asked Ruby if the suspect would have had to walk through the living room to get it, possibly leaving some of the carpet impressions.
“It would definitely make sense that they had to walk through there,” Ruby answered.
Schum also used pictures from the autopsy to ask Ruby if he could see what appeared to be some type of unknown substance found on the shirt Gill was wearing the night he was murdered, and asked if had been collected.
“I can identify there are two dots on the right portion of his back,” Ruby said
She asked Ruby if he and the other crime scene technicians ever found any gloves at Gill's residence while they were collecting the evidence, which included going through all of the trash in the garbage cans found inside the home.
“I don't remember finding any gloves in the house,” Ruby replied.
Ruby also said the reason he took a photo of a laceration and bruise on Gill's right arm is because he thought it was consistent with the computer power cord found near the body. However, when questioned about that bruise and others, Ruby said he didn't know what may have caused them.
The defense in its opening remarks claimed there were no witnesses and no physical evidence connecting Strong to the murder. They also said there was an extra set of unknown fingerprints found at the scene.
During his redirect of the witness, prosecutor William Katz of the Yuma County Attorney's Office asked Ruby about latent glove prints found in several areas around Gill's home while they were in the process of dusting for fingerprints.
“We were able to see latent prints, but what we were seeing was a cloth-like texture in the powder,” Ruby said.
Ruby said the same texture was found on the counter and both the front and back sides to a chair in the master bathroom, where Gill's body had been found.
“It looked like a cloth or material had been pressed against the areas,” Ruby said.
Katz also asked Ruby about the bruises in the autopsy photos. He said the medical examiner told him they were consistent with having sustained blunt force trauma to the head, shoulders and legs.
Ruby also testified during the redirect that water from the bathtub where Gill's body was found had been collected because it contained a foreign substance that he concluded to have been body fluids. He added that there were also indications that water had been splashed in the bathroom.
“We found some spots on the glass and on the north wall,” Ruby said.
The 62-year-old 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.
During its investigation, YPD detectives confirmed that Strong was in possession of a large sum of money immediately after Gill's death. Detectives were able to track his movements immediately before and after Gill's death, but his whereabouts during the death are unknown at this time.
Investigators also believe that Gill was forced to make several phone calls to different individuals the day before his body was found.
Strong is also a suspect in the 2005 murders of six people at a La Mesa Street home
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.