Poitra Trial: Day 2 – Morning Testimony

State vs. Dennis Poitra, Jr. began day two of testimony  in 4th Judicial District Court Tuesday morning.
State vs. Dennis Poitra, Jr. began day two of testimony in 4th Judicial District Court Tuesday morning.

Day two of the trial in the State vs. Dennis Poitra, Jr. got underway at 9 o'clock, with the first witness of the day being Department of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Loy Young taking the stand. The majority of his testimony involved identifying numerous photos that he and his team took on the morning of August 26th of evidence outside and inside the Ernst home on Thurmond Avenue in Sheridan.

The photos showed the exterior, mostly taken from the back of the house, showing the windows and doorways. One of the doors went into the laundry room, and a photo of that room showed a small table next to the washer-dryer on which there was evidence of papers that looked like they'd been taken from a purse. The table is where Linda Ernst testified Monday that she typically left her purse when she wasn't using it. There were also photos of the cut screen in the dining room window, the shell casings found in the hallway, blood stains on the wood floor of the master bedroom, a t-shirt with a blood stain, and damaged floor boards that were removed to reveal a bullet. Also photos showed the basement office in a ransacked condition.

The next witness was 20-year-old Kyle Smith, a good friend of Dennis Poitra, Jr., whom he and most friends refer to as Junior. Smith said that he, Junior and Smith's sister-in-law Kendra Smith hung out together almost every day. He said that on the morning of last August 26th, another friend, Riley Larkins, picked Kyle up and they drove around Sheridan, also driving by the Ernst's home. Kyle then borrowed Larkins' truck to connect with Kendra Smith.

Later that afternoon, he, Kendra and his sister Jennifer went to Kendrick Park where they saw Larkins, who was looking to borrow $250, Kyle told the Court, but wouldn't say why. With Larkins was Dharminder "Dhar" Sen. Kyle Smith spoke with Larkins and Sen, and Dhar told Kyle that he, Wyatt Bear Cloud and Junior were robbing houses the night before, and at one of the homes, Dhar told Kyle, “When the guy tried to grab me, I went loose.”

Kyle then testified that he saw a 9 mm gun removed from underneath the passenger seat of Larkins' truck. Larkins showed Kyle the gun; Kyle said he himself did not handle it. Dhar told Kyle that it was the gun that was used in the shooting.

Upon learning this information, Kyle, Jennifer and Kendra Smith went to the police station.

After a brief morning recess Tuesday, DCI Special Agent Chris McDonald of Gillette testified. He had been called in to assist in the Ernst Murder investigation, and with fellow Special Agent Louey Williams, twice interviewed Kendra Smith the afternoon of August 26th, 2009.

The first interview, conducted just after 4 o'clock, took place at the Sheridan Police Department. Kendra told them that she'd had contact with Junior and through information learned from him, wanted to discuss a concern that Junior might be involved in the murder case.

In the course of the first interview, Kendra received a call from Junior, and Kendra put him on speaker phone so the DCI agents could listen to it. McDonald said that Junior had indicated that he was “bored, at his dad's house in Dayton and could her boyfriend come get him?” Kendra asked him what he'd done the night before, and he said “something bad, maybe” and could she come to Dayton.

Kendra asked him if he had heard about the homicide, and he denied it at first. McDonald said Junior then kind of jokingly said, “I could have been killed” but then quietly said to Kendra, “Come out now.” At the end of that interview, Kendra promised to contact DCI agents if she learned anything else.

At 6:16, Kyle Smith called McDonald and said that Dennis had indicated further involvement, and that he'd spoken with Kendra and she'd had the presence of mind to record the call on her cell phone. McDonald testified that he'd made a recording of her recording.

The final witness to be called this morning was Kendra Smith. She confirmed the close relationship – referring to him like a “little brother” -- with Junior. Her testimony was fairly involved and a very emotional one, and we'll have the details later today.

Eye Care of the Big Horns
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