In 4th Judicial District Court Thursday morning for Day 4 of the State vs. Dharminder Vir Sen trial, State prosecutor Matt Redle called DCI Special Agent Chris McDonald to the stand.
McDonald testified that sometime after 4 o'clock on the afternoon of August 26, 2009, Kyle Smith and Kendra Smith came on their own to the Sheridan Police Department to share information that they had learned that day about the Ernst homicide.
McDonald said the two were questioned separately, and he and Special Agent Louey Williams spoke with Kendra Smith. During that conversation, she received a phone call on her cell phone, and without being asked, put the cell on speaker phone so the two agents could hear the call, which had come from Dennis Poitra, Jr., whom she referred to as her "little brother" because they were so close.
After that interview ended, McDonald told the Court that he and Williams asked Kyle Smith and Kendra Smith to contact them if they learned anything further.
Later that afternoon, McDonald said, he said he'd collected a GSR kit from Dharminder Sen. Sen had been brought in just after 5 o'clock, and was interviewed briefly before invoking his right to remain silent.
Kendra returned to the PD around 6 pm and provided a cell phone call that she'd recorded on her cell; the agents in turn recorded the recording. Her phone was taken briefly to download information, and then returned to her.
Just before 8:30 pm, Sen had indicated to another officer that he wanted to speak to Agents McDonald and Williams. Redle asked if, to memorialize that interview, the agents had recorded it. McDonald said they had, and Redle entered it into evidence. It was then published for the jury.
The Court heard Dharminder Sen ask if he should get an attorney; the agents replied that they could not give him legal advise. Sen then said that he was scared of what's going to happen if "I tell you guys." McDonald convinces him to talk, saying that he's the last one to tell them what they are already learning.
Sen told the agents, "I'm scared ****less of Riley; he told me he'd kill me if I snitched, so I "haven't said anything."
McDonald asks, "Was Riley involved?"
Sen replied, "No, but Jr. was, and Riley is good friends with Jr. I'm not in the gang, I only know about two members, Jr. and Riley."
McDonald asks, "What's the name of the gang?" "509, because Riley is from Washington...
McDonald says, "Tell me about last night" to which Sen asks, "Will Riley hear this recording?" The agent said "...you're the last one to talk. You need to know, you're in a heap of **** and you need to get it out."
Sen then said that he'd had problems with Jr. ever since he'd met him. He saw Jr. at the park on the evening of August 25th, and Jr. told him he needed help with something. Sen said Jr. would kick his *** or he'd "have Riley kill me. He wanted me to rob someone, and I agreed."
The audio goes on to describe getting the gun from Sen's bedroom -- he said he and Wyatt Bear Cloud had stolen it out of the glove compartment of an unlocked white pick-up parked at the house next to Wyatt. Sen says that he and Jr. met up with Wyatt at his house, and Jr. told Wyatt about the plan. They hung out there for a couple hours, Sen said, and then Jr. and Wyatt went to the park, while Sen slept in Bear Cloud's garage.
Just after midnight, Sen said, Jr. woke him up and said "C'mon, let's go."
He described heading down the alley, and that Jr. had the gun the whole time. They tried a house with an open door, and Jr. went in, but a dog was barking so they left. Sen said Wyatt pointed out another house where he "knew a couple lived." Dhar said he moved some patio furniture while Jr. cut the screen and unlocked the door to let them in.
Sen said Jr. instructed them to go to the basement. Sen said he didn't want to, and opened a couple things to make it look like he was taking part. He said Jr. told them to go upstairs, and handed Dhar the gun while he -- Jr. -- went into the laundry room and took money from a purse that was sitting on a table. Sen said he'd at first been holding a 2x4 piece of wood, but gave it to Wyatt when Jr. gave him the gun to hold.
Sen said that Jr. said "'we're already in, so we need to do this.'" The agent asked Sen what they needed to do, and Sen said "rob them." Sen said that Jr. told him that Riley would hurt him if he didn't do it. Jr. stood in the doorway, Sen said, and yelled "'get up!'" Sen said the lady screamed (he says later on the recording that he didn't realize the couple was lying in the bed) and the "guy got up and turned on his lamp...Jr. said 'do it' and I pulled the trigger three times."
The agent asked what they did next, and he said they ran through a door and ran down the alley to Wyatt's house.
As this was playing, Dhar Sen sat with his head bowed at the defense table. On the audio a bit later, McDonald asked him, "What do you think about all this?" Sen replied, "I'm scared. I'm scared of Riley and Jr." McDonald asked, "What do you think about what happened to those two people?" Sen answered, "I know it was wrong; it is the worst thing to do to someone, to kill someone. I panicked and I listened to Jr. because I was scared."
When asked how much money Jr. had taken, Sen said, "$30. Jr. spent $10 on McDonalds this morning. I don't know what he did with the other $20."