Wednesday afternoon in 4th Judicial District Court, Sheridan County Sheriff Deputy Mike Hamilton took the witness stand to testify to his role in the August 26, 2009 traffic stop where Dharminder Sen was ultimately arrested and brought in for questioning about the shooting death of Robert Ernst.
Deputy Hamilton confirmed Deputy Steve Matheson's account from Monday, and then told the court about an evening investigation at several houses on Huntington. Hamilton said that he and Matheson first went to 575 Huntington; the recently constructed home appeared to be vacant, but he found that on the north, alley-side of the building, where there should have been a window screen, the screen was missing. Also at that building on the west side in a window well, the screen was sliced vertically.
Hamilton said that at 541 Huntington, he spoke to the homeowners because of information about hearing someone entering their laundry room and their dog barking wildly. And at 375 Huntington, he spoke with the resident, Cathy Daniello, about her open backyard gates and motion sensor light.
Sen's attorney, Tim Cotton, had no cross examination questions for Hamilton.
Following Hamilton, Josie Bennett, who lives at 541 Huntington, told the Court about hearing her son come home just after midnight on August 26th, and then a little later, hearing the door to the laundry room click shut and their dog “going crazy, barking and acting like I've never seen her do before.” The barking brought the son upstairs, but he didn't see anything out of the ordinary. On cross examination, Cotton asked why Bennett never called the police. She said she didn't think much about it until the next day after learning about the Ernst murder.
After Bennett, Cathy Daniello took the stand, explaining the layout of her backyard fences and gates, and that upon waking the morning of August 26, 2009, she noticed that the gates were open – they had been shut the night before. She also said the motion sensor lights would be triggered by movement. On cross, Cotton asked if she had seen or heard anyone; she said, “no, I did not.” Cotton asked, “Isn't it possible that animals or wind could also set off the motion sensor light?” She answered, “I suppose.” On re-direct, prosecutor Matt Redle asked her, “Do animals typically unlock gates?” She said, “Not that I'm aware of.
Last to testify was DCI Special Agent Chad Quarterman, who discussed his investigation into the cell phone call and text history of both Sen's and Larkins' phones. Judge Sampson approved Quarterman's warrant application in November, 2009, and the agent went to Cheyenne, where he was assisted by Scott Hughes to do searches on the phones.
Charts showing side-by-side call and text histories indicated that Sen did make one phone call to Larkins on the night of August 25th. On the 26th, Sen received two calls from Larkins and placed six calls to Larkins. This record seemed to confirm Larkins' testimony from Monday afternoon about communication he'd had with Sen.
On cross, Cotton said it was possible that someone else could have placed the call, reminding Quarterman that at least once, Dennis Poitra, Jr. had used Sen's phone to call Kendra Smith.