Gateway murder trial

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Walter Ryan cont’d **Strong content**

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As a member of the Major Crimes Unit, he was called to the scene the  morning of December 27, 2005.

He arrived between 8:20 and 8:30 a.m. He says there were a lot of deputies on scene.

As the lead detective, he was in charge of the investigation. He was also in charge of meeting with the next of kin and giving them the news.

At the scene, he met with Maj Jeff Taylor and Jim Jones, Ron Curtis and another supervisor and was briefed about the incident. Next, he was shown the crime scene and walked around the home.

He entered the home through the front door. He walked through the home, didn’t notice anything missing. TV was still in place, guitars were on the wall, items of value were on the dining room table. He says nothing on the ground floor seemed out of place.

He didn’t see any broken windows or signs of a forced entry.

He went up the staircase for an initial walk through. he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary or signs of a struggle in the baby’s room or in the office. (There were three bedrooms and two bathrooms on that floor).

The master bedroom had signs of a struggle. He is describing how Michelle was positioned on the carpet, the bedsheets showed signs of a struggle, dresser drawers were open.

There was blood spatter on the dresser and on the wall and the ground by Steven’s body.

The initial walk-through took less than an hour.

He walked around the home in a counter-clockwise manner, looking for signs of forced entry or signs someone had disturbed the bushes.

He found one of the screen doors to the lanai was unlocked.

The sliding glass doors were unlocked and not completely closed.

Ryan confirms a deputy was stationed at the back of the Andrews property to prevent entry from the rear of the home to the crime scene.

Ryan says Michelle’s mother arrived to the scene. He left the scene and drove Mrs. Kokora to the sheriff’s office on Six Mile Cypress.

He confirms the neighborhood canvas took several days.

For the investigation, Ryan says “At 5 pm every afternoon we all came in and had a briefing, basically a round-table and everyone explained what they had done that day. Any investigative information they passed it on.”

Ryan and another deputy took Mrs. Kokora to the sheriff’s office on Six Mile. The Andrews were already there and Dan Kokora had also arrived.

That’s when Ryan told the family what happened at the Andrews home.

Ryan says it was obvious it was a homicide from the beginning. There were no signs of forced entry so he knew they hadn’t interrupted a burglar.

“It seemed they were targeted.”

After telling the parents what happened, they began taking statements from the family members. He “wanted to get a background on the victims to see if there was anything that pointed to what happened in the home.”

The statements were taken at headquarters in his supervisor’s office.

He didn’t return to Gateway on the 27th. From the parents, had he generated any suspects. He says the person they wanted to talk to ended up calling the station to talk to them – and that was Kellie Ballew.

He says he met with Kellie around 5pm on the 27th and interviewed her. Her interview was in an interview room.

After meeting with Ballew, Ryan says he wanted to meet with her “cohabitant boyfriend Fred Cooper.”

He wanted to speak to Cooper because Kellie had confided to having an affair with Steven. Neighbors had seen an unknown white male the night before wearing a camoflouge jacket. Kellie had confirmed Cooper owned one.

Kellie called Cooper and asked him to go to the sheriff’s office to make a statement. He says he asked Kellie to call him. He instructed Kellie to say she needed an alibi – if Cooper didn’t want to go or asked why.

He asked about Kellie’s wherabouts on the night of the murder.

Ryan met with Cooper sometime after 6 p.m. on the 27th. He drove his mother’s Saturn. Detectives followed him home.

Cooper was taken to the major crimes area and interviewed in an interview room. The room is 8′ by 8′ with a table and chairs. There are no windows.

Bill Kalstrom was also present during the questioning. Both Kalstrom and Ryan were wearing shirts and ties.

Cooper was not under arrest or handcuffed when Ryan and Kalstrom spoke to him. He didn’t force him to speak to them.


Written by Melissa Hudson

October 8, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Day 6

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Walter Ryan called to the stand

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He’s the lead detective in the murders of Steven and Michelle Andrews.

He’s expected to be the last witness of the day.

Written by Melissa Hudson

October 8, 2008 at 1:34 pm

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Thoughts on this morning

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I’m not sure why the defense questioned several witnesses, asking if christopher Stroka took their statement if they weren’t going to bring up the IA report.

(Stroka resigned after an internal affairs report found him guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer – in September 2007.)

We’re in recess until 1:30 p.m. I will return then.

Written by Melissa Hudson

October 8, 2008 at 11:26 am

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Stroka cont’d

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He was one of the officers who worked the neighborhood canvas during the Gateway murder investigation.

He would talk to neighbors to see if they saw anyone or whether or not they were home during the time of the murders.

On December 27, 2005 he responded to Sunsports to pick up some evidence.

Stroka was the one who collected the black mesh liner from the trash can and entered it into evidence.

State wants to enter mesh lining into evidence. Stroka opened up the bags and is holding up the mesh lining for the jury. (It was entered into evidence #66)

The lining is in two separate pieces.

Defense cross examining

(Will they bring up his past?)

Stroka says the lining was visible from the top of the trash can.

Stroka took a statement from Jim Peters and it was lost. The digital recording was lost. No other statements were lost.

Defense asks if he created the photo lineup which included Fred (shown to Doug Jimmo). Defense asked if he showed the lineup to witnesses. He says he doesn’t remember.

Defense is asking about the morning of the murders and if there was media at the scene that morning. (yes there was)

One of the people he spoke to was Shawn Torgeson (sp?)

State objecting. The jury has left the room and the questioning is continuing.

Torgeson said he saw a trash bag ont he Andrews property and pointed it out to Stroka. (Stroka confirms this to be true).

Torgeson said it was unusual because the Andrews were neat people. Stroka did not check the bag out.

Jury has returned and defense done. No redirect.

We’re recessing until 1:30.

Written by Melissa Hudson

October 8, 2008 at 11:23 am

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Christopher Stroka called to the stand

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Stroka has been called to the stand.

He is no longer an employee of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office because he resigned after an internal investigation.a

Written by Melissa Hudson

October 8, 2008 at 11:01 am

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Peters cont’d

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Back from 15 min recess and Jim Peters is still on the stand.

The defense is cross examining the witness.

He says Fred was a good worker and good employee. Says Fred never left without permission or took advantage of test driving the bikes.

Defense asking Peters to look at Fred’s helmet. Peters can’t confirm it’s Fred’s for certain. He confirms helmets come with bags with a drawstring, but the bag would be unsuitable for use as a backpack.

Peters is looking at some pictures the defense is entering into evidence.

Defense exhibit 45 – a picture of the work area in Sunsports.

Defense exhibit 46 – trash can in relation to work bay. Not sure if it’s the exact trash can the liner was found in.

Defense is asking if Fred tried to conceal the mesh liner in the trash can. Peters confirms Fred didn’t seem to be hiding the fact he was cleaning his jacket. (Defense is trying to say Fred was doing this out in the open – therefore had nothing to hide).

Peters’ first statement to LCSO was lost and they came back out and did another statement.

Fred did recalls and small repairs, nothing like rebuilding an engine.

Peters confirms getting scratches and scrapes common when working on motorcycles. (Fred said his scratches and swollen knuckles were because of working on motorcycles)

Peters said employees didn’t have a card to “punch in” but used a keypad.

Peters said he never saw any unusual injuries on Cooper.

Fred’s motorcycle didn’t have a windshield, so driver would get grime, bugs and other road debris on them. Peters says it’s possible someone would use the cleaners to clean grime, bugs, etc – but doesn’t seem to think it’s likely.

Prosecution redirecting

Sunsports was closed on Christmas Day.

Peters confirms he didn’t check his employees for injuries every day (rebuttal to defense question).

Peters confirms for the state if Cooper left on the Dec 27 it would have been policy for Fred to punch out. He confirms sometimes employees didn’t – doesn’t know if Fred punched in or out when running the errand on the 27th.

Defense redirecting

Defense asked if driver seat of motorcycle can be taken off. He said yes.

Peters says it was common for Fred to work through lunch to keep up.

Prosecution redirects.

Confirms records of punching in and out doesn’t confirm the person was there.

Written by Melissa Hudson

October 8, 2008 at 11:00 am

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Jim Peters called to the stand

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Jim Peters was Fred’s boss at Sunsports. Fred was a motorcycle mechanic at Sunsports when he was arrested.

(Peters called detectives and told them Fred was cutting the lining out of his camouflage jacket and was scrubbing it)

Evidence #51 a photo of Sunsports exterior from December 2005.

Peters’ office had a view of the service area where mechanics worked on motorcycles and ATVs.

He is the one who hired Fred Cooper. Says Cooper had worked there for 8 or nine months in December 05. He worked on motorcycles and ATVs.

Confirms Fred drove a yellow Suzuki motorcycle.

Each mechanic had his own bay to work. They would test drive the motorcycles when fixing them. If it was a routine test drive, they didn’t need special permission.

In Dec 2005, he learned about the double homicide from the news.

The prosecution asked if Peters remembers seeing LCSO deputies speaking with Cooper at Sunsports. (He said he didn’t recall, so now he’s reviewing his prior testimony.)

He does remember Cooper asking to leave to run an errand. Cooper left on his motorcycle and was gone approx 25 minutes.

When he came back Peters saw Cooper, “with his camoflouge jacket and spent the next hour cleaning and scrubbing on it.” Peters was in his office and looking through the window seeing this.

He was using spray solvents on the jacket. Those are used clean, evaporate and dry. They have strong odors.

Exhibit 52a – picture of the interior of the Sunsports shop (Fred’s work area).

Peters says Fred was in the corner by his toolbox when scrubbing the jacket.

Next, Peters saw Fred “cutting a section of the lining of the jacket with a razor blade or something like that.”

Says Cooper threw the lining away in the trash can in his work area.

Two pictures of the mesh lining in the trash can are entered into evidence. (exhibits 53 and 54). [No blood was found on the lining]

You can see more of the evidence here:

[The camo jacket still has not been entered into evidence]

After seeing Fred doing this to the jacket, he called the investigators. One of the detectives went to Sunsports and collected the liner from the trash can.

He also turned some items over – a couple of cans of spray cleaners and some of the rags they use for cleaning.

State’s exhibit 52b – can of cleaner (one of the cleaners Cooper may have used to clean his jacket).

State’s exhibit 90 – can of electrical contact cleaner (one of the cleaners Cooper may have used to clean his jacket).

There was a video surveillance system at Sunsports. (this is new information – not released before)

State’s exhibits 55 – 65 (still photos from the surveillance video). Shows the exterior of Sunsports and Fred is in the shot – near a truck. Hard to tell from here – too far away.

The photos are from Dec 27 and Dec 29 at various times.

Fred Cooper is in the photos, on his motorcycle. There was a hose at the corner of the building where they would wash motorcycles. Employees were allowed to wash their motorcycles there.

(No DNA was found on Cooper’s motorcycle. Seems like they’re implying Cooper washed his motorcycle there).

Peters said “I asked if he did it he said nope I had nothing to do with it.”

15 minute recess

Written by Melissa Hudson

October 8, 2008 at 10:18 am

Posted in Day 6

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