Special Agent Louey Williams of the Department of Criminal Investigation led off the day's testimony in 4th Judicial District Court in the State vs. Dennis Poitra, Jr. trial. Williams, who is the Team Leader for the NE Enforcement Team, testified that he and Special Agent Chris McDonald conducted an interview with Poitra, also known as “Junior”, at 7:13 pm on August 26th, 2009. Williams indicated that Junior had been Mirandized by Sheridan County Sheriff's Deputy Travis Harnish when he was stopped outside of Dayton. Williams and McDonald recorded the interview, and Attorney Matt Redle played it for the jury.
Junior sounded calm and detached as he answered their questions. When asked why they chose the Ernst's house, he said, “I honestly don't know why; we just chose it and went in.”
He identified Wyatt Bear Cloud and Dhar Sen (although he didn't know their last names) as being involved in the crime as well. Agents asked Junior how long he'd known the other two, and he said for a couple of months. He said that before the alleged crime, the three had been at Bear Cloud's garage planning to rob some homes to collect money to get out of town. He said that robbing people had been Dhar's idea, and that earlier the afternoon of the 25th he had asked Junior if he wanted to join in. Junior said, “I'm down.” He interjected the questioning at this point and asked the agents, “Did you find the gun? Because I know where it might be...on a shelf at Wyatt's house in a jar. Dhar hid it.”
Detailing the events, agents asked what transpired after the three left the garage. Junior said they went to some houses on Huntington. At the first house, the door was open but the screen door was shut. At the second house, they entered into the laundry room but a dog started barking so they left. At the third house, lights came on in the yard and they ran. At some point, Dhar, who Junior said had stolen the 9 mm gun the week before, gave the gun to Junior. The fourth house was the Ernst's, and when agents asked him again, why they chose that house, he said “I don't know. We randomly picked the house. We didn't know who lived there.”
He told agents that he'd cut the screen of one of the back windows, then unlocked the door and let the other two in. They first went into a guest bedroom, Junior said, and then Dhar suggested they go downstairs. They passed the Ernst's bedroom and saw the couple sleeping in their bed. In the basement, they opened drawers to the desk and file cabinets, saying that money and jewelry were the focus of their search. Then Dhar told Junior to give him the gun and he went upstairs. Junior told agents they went back upstairs, and Dhar stood in the doorway and shined a flashlight on the couple. He said he was standing to the left of the doorway, and his black bandana fell from his face, so he stepped back to adjust it. He heard Dhar yell, “Freeze, Mother-F***er!” and saw him shoot the gun three times. Junior said the three then ran out of the house and went back to the Bear Cloud's garage.
One of the agents asked Junior, “How do we know you didn't shoot the guy... you know what I'm gettin' at? You had the gun and suddenly you don't.” Junior responded, “I'd have gun shot residue on my hand, wouldn't I?”
Just before the interview ended at 7:44 pm, one of the agents said, “Do you realize how much trouble you're in? Has it sunk in?” Junior said, “I know how much trouble I'm in.” The agent said that usually at this point in questioning someone, there is some indication of being sorry for the crime. He said to Junior, “I haven't heard you say, 'I'm sorry,' and maybe you're not. But an innocent man was killed in front of his wife....[he had] children, grandchildren.”
Junior replied, “Because I don't say it, doesn't mean I ain't [sorry]...I hold it inside.”