The defense was expected to present its case Wednesday in the murder trial of Charles Nicholas Strain, after which the five-man three-woman jury will decide Strain's fate.
Strain, 56, is being tried in 4th District Court for the second time for second-degree murder in the killing of his stepdaughter, Deanna Jane Dean, 16, in June 1981. Dean's body was discovered by hunters in Spanish Fork Canyon on Oct. 17, 1981.A jury in 1986 found Strain guilty of the crime, and he was sentenced to five years to life in the Utah State Prison by Judge George E. Ballif. But the Utah Supreme Court ordered that Strain receive a new trial because a confession made by Strain to police officers should not have been allowed as evidence.
Tuesday the prosecution rested its case after a former jailmate of Strain's at the Utah County Jail testified that Strain confessed to him several times of killing Dean.
James Karrick, an inmate at the jail in March 1986, said he talked with Strain about 12 times in Strain's cell, and on each occassion Strain confessed to murdering Dean. According to Karrick's testimony, after killing Dean, Strain said "he dumped her in Spanish Fork Canyon."
Karrick, who was in jail awaiting trial on theft charge out of Provo and who was on parole for an earlier burglary conviction at the time, said he was not promised anything and did not receive anything for his testimony. He said he approached jail authorities in 1986 about Strain's confession because Strain was planning an escape and he did not want him free.
"I have a lot of family, most of them girls, sisters, nieces and daughters, and I didn't want him out and about," Karrick testified.
On cross examination, defense attorney Jay Fitt asked Karrick what happened to the charge for which he was incarcerated as well as another charge filed in Orem. Karrick said the Provo charge was dismissed because of failure to prosecute in a timely manner and he did not know why the Orem charge was dismissed.
Fitt asked Karrick if he gave a deposition to county investigators on June 2, 1986. Karrick said he did give a deposition but he could not remember the date. Fitt later introduced evidence that showed June 2, 1986, as the date the order-to-dismiss was filed on the Orem case and June 16, 1986, as the date the case was actually dismissed.
Prosecutors also called several expert witnesses Tuesday. Reed Holt, a forensic dentist at the state medical examiner's office, said he believed the body discovered in Spanish Fork Canyon to be Dean's. Glade Terry, former Provo Police detective and handwriting expert, said he believed that the handwriting on a Moab motel registration card is Strain's.
James Gaskill, director of the Weber State University Crime Lab, said the bullets found in Dean's body were fired from the same kind of gun as the one found in Strain's truck in Arizona, a semi-automatic .22 caliber Ruger revolver. John Riley, a special agent with the FBI, testified that the bullets found in Dean's body could have come from a box of ammunition found in Strain's truck.
Enlarged overlays of photographs taken by detective Scott Carter in June 1986 from a spot about 50 feet from where Dean's body was discovered were compared with Polaroid photographs found in a filing cabinet owned by Strain. The overlay showed that both sets of photographs depict a similar view. Richard Farren, a Polaroid Corp. supervisor, said a film-pack battery found at the crime scene and the photographs found in Strain's filing cabinet were manufactured in October 1980 and January 1981 respectively.
Because of a gag ordered imposed by Ballif on those involved in the case, it is unclear who Fitt plans to call to the witness stand Wednesday. However, because Fitt has stated several times during the trial that it would be highly unlikely for any of his witnesses to be in attendance, it is believed that he plans to call other inmates from the prison. There has been no indication that Strain will take the stand in his own defense. Fitt said Tuesday that it should only take a few hours to present his side of the case.