Sunday, 14 April 2024

Witness' attorney argues Fifth Amendment concerns in murder trial

LAKEPORT – Fifth Amendment issues for a witness proved a major point of concern during the second day of testimony in the murder trial of two Clearlake men.


Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, and Melvin Dale Norton, 38, are alleged to have murdered 25-year-old Shelby Uehling during an early morning confrontation on Highway 53 in Clearlake on Sept. 22, 2009.


Edmonds and Norton are asserting self defense in what their attorneys allege was a situation that arose over their concern about Uehling and his relationship with Patricia Campbell, Edmonds' on-again, off-again girlfriend. She and Uehling had become briefly involved during a period last August when Campbell and Edmonds were not together.


Before the case's jury was brought into Judge Arthur Mann's Department 3 courtroom Tuesday morning, prosecutor Art Grothe said the attorney for Linda Dale, a witness scheduled to testify that afternoon, was concerned about her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself on the stand.


Mann ordered a hearing before she was brought to the stand in the afternoon.


Attorney William Conwell is representing Dale is a pending case regarding possession of drugs for sale, and he was concerned about the line of questioning that might be pursued by Edmonds' attorney, Doug Rhoades, and Norton's attorney, Stephen Carter. In the homicide case, Dale is believed to have been involved in drug issues with Uehling, to whom she may have been selling.


During the afternoon hearing, Rhoades said he didn't intend to ask Dale about her current case. Carter said he wanted to query her about the nature of her relationship with Uehling, and if she sold him drugs.


Conwell told the court that Dale's current case is now set for arraignment.


Mann said he didn't see anything that would raise a problem with the Fifth Amendment, and Dale was called to the stand.


On the stand, Dale testified to knowing Uehling for about nine months previous to his death last September. He occasionally stayed at her place and the homes of other friends, although his main residence was his uncle's Cobb home.


She had last seen him about three days before he died, but he had called her between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on the night before he died and said someone was chasing him, and later called and asked to speak to a Joseph Taylor, who was staying at her residence, who he asked to help with “watching his back.”


As Carter was questioning Dale, he asked if she had done drugs with Uehling, which caused Conwell to speak up from his seat in the audience, and Mann called Grothe, Carter, Rhoades and Conwell up to his bench for a sidebar.


Afterward, Mann asked the jury to leave the room while he heard Conwell's objection to the line of questioning based on his Fifth Amendment concerns.


He said the questions could influence Dale's current drug case. Grothe said that current case involves allegations that came up well after Uehling's death.


Carter said he had a line of questions about drug use, and if Dale was allowed to assert the Fifth Amendment, he would ask for all of her testimony to be stricken, as it would go to the issues of bias and her ability to perceive what is happening.


Rhoades added that he believed Carter's question about drug use with Uehling was well founded given the information about her allegedly Uehling with drugs.


“I certainly think it's an area that's ripe for exploration because it goes to bias,” he said.


Grothe told Mann, “In my opinion, I don't see any way in the world that anything she said about that transaction with Mr. Uehling could in any way lead to a prosecution,” especially since Uehling is deceased.


Conwell said there is a search warrant in Dale's case and he doesn't have access to either that or the police reports. Grothe said he could have access to the search warrant “if he walked down the hall 45 feet” and went to the court clerk's office.


Mann overruled Conwell's objection and said he didn't see anything that would incriminate Dale.


Conwell replied that her testimony goes to knowledge of what the substances are, which she would not be able to deny in her current case.


When the jury was brought back in, Carter asked Dale if she saw Uehling use illegal drugs like methamphetamine. She said she saw him use the drug two to three times. When Carter asked when those instances were in relation to Sept. 21, 2009, Conwell asked to approach the bench.

Following another sidebar with the attorneys, Carter resumed his questioning, and Dale said she couldn't remember dates very well because of neurological issues with her brain.


When Carter asked if she ever used methamphetamine with Uehling, she replied, “Once.”


Carter asked if she had supplied methamphetamine to Uehling and Conwell objected, with Mann sustaining the objection.


Police recount scene, investigation


The second day of testimony began with Clearlake Police Officer Michael Carpenter back on the stand to complete his testimony.


Carpenter, the first witness called by the prosecution last Thursday, was the first to arrive on the scene on the morning of Sept. 22, 2009, and discovered Uehling's body, face down, next to an oak tree on the shoulder of Old Highway 53.


Under cross examination by Rhoades, Carpenter related that he saw two unidentified people in the area of the fatal fight and spoke briefly with them, and they were not involved in the case.


“What was the first thing that caught your attention?” Rhoades asked about the scene.


“It was the pool of blood on the shoulder of the road,” said Carpenter, who explained that medical personnel arrived about 10 minutes after him.


Carter asked Carpenter about the handle end of a golf club that was lying in the roadway. Carpenter explained it was run over by the passenger-side tires of a medical vehicle arriving at the scene.


Carpenter testified that medical personnel put Uehling – who hadn't yet been declared dead – in an ambulance and transported him to St. Helena Hospital Clearlake, with Carpenter following behind.


At the hospital, medical personnel removed Uehling's clothing, and Carpenter photographed both Uehling's body and the clothing, discovering a fixed-blade knife in Uehling's shoe when he inspected it.


At the scene, Uehling's red Honda had been found on Lotowana, a side road off of Highway 53, located about 15 yards from Uehling's body. The car was still running, Carpenter said.


Sgt. Brenda Crandall, a patrol sergeant for Clearlake Police who was the second person on the scene, was next on the stand.


At around 11 p.m. on the night of Sept. 21, Crandall had seen Uehling's red Honda parked in a way that she thought looked unusual – backed up in a parking space and unlocked – at Mendo Mill on Highway 53. When she checked it, it was unoccupied and the vehicle's hood was still warm.


She didn't see the vehicle again until she arrived at the crime scene, where she and Carpenter were dispatched on a report of a battery. Crandall said Carpenter arrived about a minute before she did, and said he had checked for Uehling's pulse and didn't find one, and checked again in Crandall's presence.


Crandall, who noted that medics arrived about a minute or so after she did, said she saw a large gash on Uehling's neck, and after assessing the scene asked fellow officers to contact Det. Tom Clements.


She also began taking photos, asked another officer on the scene to seek witnesses as there was a residence nearby, and then locked down the scene until detectives arrived. She had another of her officers do a crime scene log to track everyone who came and went from the scene.


Det. Martin Snyder arrived at the scene and took items into evidence, said Crandall.


After the scene was secured, Crandall said she turned off Uehling's car's ignition, using a gloved hand to do so.


Rhoades drew a diagram and asked Crandall to draw in Uehling's car at the scene. It was sitting on Lotowana around the corner from his body, which was alongside Highway 53. Crandall agreed Uehling's car could have been parked in such a way as to allow him to watch traffic.


Snyder, the last witness in the morning session, processed the crime scene at Old Highway 53 and Lotowana, and later would fully process Uehling's car at a secure facility.


He also measured the distance of the scene from Norton's home – 582 feet – and Edmonds', which was three-tenths of a mile away, he said. Snyder described the area in which the homes were located as “condensed mobile home parks.”


Grothe presented Snyder with a cell phone and charger found in Uehling's car. After that cell phone was admitted into evidence, Grothe showed Snyder another phone, which he took from Edmonds' teenage daughter.


The phone number of that phone had been logged into the Clearlake Police Department's RIMS record management system as belonging to Shannon Edmonds, Snyder said.


As Snyder searched the vehicle, he said he recalled finding no knives.


Under Grothe's questioning, Snyder described a series of photos he took of the car's interior, which he described as “very dirty.”


The photos showed money and bank cards under a front floor mat, a hammer handle sticking out from between the front seats, a cell phone on the driver's side seat, a screw driver on the floorboard, numerous personal items on the floor and seats, as well as a variety of prescription medication.


He also photographed the trunk and the passenger side dash board, where a golf club head was seen protruding, with the broken end of the club's shaft pointing out the passenger side window.


Snyder's testimony was interrupted by the lunch break, and didn't continue until late in the afternoon, after Valerie Alderson, Pat Hand and Dale were on the stand.


Rhoades cross-examined him about the evidence he found and the processing of the evidence taken from the scene and the car.


Other witnesses supply more details about events


The court heard briefly on Tuesday afternoon from Clearlake resident Valerie Alderman, who last Sept. 7 sold Uehling the red 1988 Honda that was found about 15 yards from his body.


Alderman said she didn't know Uehling before he called to inquire about the car, which she had a sign on and had been driving around town.


Grothe showed her pictures of the car's interior and asked if the front seats' headrests were broken when she sold him the car. She said no.


Rhoades asked Alderman about the car's condition when she sold it to Uehling for $500. She said the car had all of its windows. He asked if there was anything unusual about the two-door vehicle's passenger-side door. She said once when she opened that door the horn honked.


Also on the stand Tuesday was Pat Hand, who had been hanging out with Edmonds and Norton at Edmonds' motor home on Sept. 21. Hand and Edmonds lived about four spaces apart at the Lakeside Mobile Home Park.


On the afternoon of Sept. 21, Hand and Edmonds drove to the Flyers convenience store to buy cigarettes. Hand said he stayed in the car while Edmonds went inside, and didn't see him make any calls or speak to anyone.


Later that night, between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., while watching movies in the motor home – where Edmonds' girlfriend, Patricia Campbell was asleep in the back room – Hand said a call came in on Campbell's phone. Edmond saw the number was from someone he called “Dude” and he handed the phone to Norton, who answered it.


“I heard Melvin say, 'No, you can't talk to Patricia. No, you can't talk to Patricia. Do you want to handle this? Do you want to handle this?'” Hand said.


Norton then hung up, but the person called back, and Norton suggested they meet there at the trailer park to “handle” the situation.


Rhoades asked Hand how long he had known Edmonds before Sept. 21. Hand estimated about two months.


He left Edmonds' home on Sept. 21 between 11:30 p.m. and midnight.


At times frustrated and confused, Hand said during questioning that he was having trouble remembering the details of his interactions with Edmonds.


Hand was awakened at 4 a.m. Sept. 22 by police, who had found his car still sitting at Edmonds' home.


Testimony is set to continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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