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Lawyers in homicide trial to close arguments today

May 14, 2008
By MARK MARONEY - mmaroney@sungazette.com
Closing arguments by attorneys are scheduled today in the homicide and conspiracy trial of Javier S. Cruz-Echevarria of South Williamsport, in connection with the March 2007 shooting death of Eric D. Sawyer.

Cruz-Echevarria, 21, of 1450 Kaiser Ave. is accused of luring Sawyer, 38, of Philadelphia to an alley off of the 1500 block of High Street about 2 a.m., March 31, 2007.

Sean M. Durrant, 39, who has confessed to the killing, testified earlier in the trial that he shot Sawyer using a pump-action 12-gauge Remington shotgun allegedly provided by Cruz-Echevarria.

Marion Diemer testified Monday that she stole the shotgun and traded the firearm for drugs with Maurice Patterson, an associate of Cruz-Echevarria and Durrant, before the killing. The prosecution argued that Cruz-Echevarria and Durrant allegedly dealt drugs for Patterson.

Patterson, in letters and telephone calls from behind bars at Lycoming County Prison, ordered the killing, according to Durrant’s past testimony.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Ron Travis showed jurors videotape interviews of Durrant with police on June 7, 2007, and the morning of the shooting.

Durrant has a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office, pleading guilty to third-degree murder and conspiracy in exchange for his complete testimony against Cruz-Echevarria.

On March 31, 2007, Durrant said on tape to agents Leonard A. Dincher and Raymond O. Kontz III that Cruz-Echevarria was innocent and unaware of his intentions to kill Sawyer.

Also testifying Tuesday for the prosecution were specialists in ballistics and testing ammunition analysis.

Elana Foster of the RJ Lee Group, materials characterization specialists, testified regarding gunshot residue particles on Cruz-Echevarria’s personal belongings that had been tested by authorities.

Clothing, sneakers and gloves were examined after police collected evidence. Under cross-examination, Travis asked Foster whether gunshot residue can be transferred from surface to surface or by touching.

Travis delved into a symposium of forensics specialists in Virginia, the results of which produced an article suggesting hands of subjects arrested in suspected gunshot crimes should be bagged before they are transported to prevent possible contamination.

Some question exists as to when Cruz-Echevarria’s hands were bagged based on testimony from police. Also, Travis had Foster concede tests of the gunshot residue can’t pinpoint from where they are retrieved.

State Police ballistics expert Trooper Elwood F. Spencer of the Wyoming (Pa.) regional laboratory, said he examined the sawed-off shotgun used in the slaying, along with five undischarged shells, two discharged shells, plastic wadding and 43 pieces of lead.

He explained that unfired and discharged shells collected by police as evidence were consistent with each other.

Today, following closing remarks by District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt and Travis, presiding Judge Nancy L. Butts said she will charge the jury and ask that deliberations begin.

Durrant’s sentencing is scheduled for July 8. He is expected to serve a sentence of 25 to 60 years in state prison.

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