Editor’s Note: Graphic details of the killings could be offensive or disturbing to some readers.
Summary: Sergeant Sterling Salisbury took the jury through the photos the Juneau Police Department took of the crime scene and some of the physical evidence they had collected. Among these were photos of Elizabeth Tonsmeire and Robert Meireis where they fell. Particularly thoroughly reviewed where the drugs in Meireis’ possession, the large amount of money on his person, and his position where he had fallen after being killed. There was also evidence of other drug use in the apartment.
State of Alaska v. Laron Carlton Graham will resume Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.
Darnall asked a few more questions after Norris concluded her cross examination. Salisbury testified that all the items he sent to the crime lab were tested; the blood on all the clothing was Meireis’.
Salisbury talked about how the rumor mill had gotten going during his process of interviewing possible witnesses.
“Some of the statements they made were completely out of this world,” said Salisbury. “Just completely false.”
He said it was fairly simple to discern what was made up and what was substantiative. One of the witnesses gave Salisbury a phone without battery or SIM card. Salisbury also testified that the wallet was not visible until they moved the ottoman. Salisbury was then excused, though the subpoena was maintained in case he was needed further.
The case will resume Tuesday.
After a break for lunch, the trial resumes with the cross examination of Salisbury by defense attorney Natasha Norris.
Salisbury testified during cross examination that it took some time to get a search warrant for Tonsmeire’s residence. No one came and talked to him or other officers as they canvassed the outside, Salisbury said. He said that they sent several items to be tested at the crime lab, including a plastic baggie Meireis was holding, several bloody pieces of Meireis’ clothing, and the two spent shell casings. Salisbury asked for a thorough examination of all the items, including DNA testing and a check for latent fingerprints on the spent casings.
Norris also asked about a number of interviews that Salisbury conducted in the days following the murders before going back over details of some of the photos from the prosecution. She took time to clarify the positions and designations for the furniture and walls in the living room of the apartment.
Salisbury also elaborated on some differences between designs of a pipes for use smoking methamphetamine and marijuana. Salisbury, working with other four or five other detectives, quartered and investigated the entire apartment, Salisbury said. He also confirmed under cross examination that Meireis’ wallet was very visibly full.
Norris went over a picture of the couch where Tonsmeire was found after her body had been removed.
“That dark stain there, that would be blood,” said Salisbury, when the area where Tonsmeire’s head had been. There were two other large blood stains; one on the floor where Meireis’ head had been, and one more on the end of the couch near Tonsmeire’s feet. A round was found in the arm of the couch near Tonsmeire’s feet.
Only two rounds and two casings were recovered from the scene, Salisbury said; all were sent to the crime lab.
As direct examination of Salisbury continued, another photo showed Meireis lying on his back, with his shirt removed. Prominently tattooed on his stomach among others were a swastika and the word ‘Skinhead.’
Salisbury described the whole house as cluttered and in disarray, including the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom.
Police also found pills on Meireis’ person, and a slow cooker with two hypodermic needles in it.
While Salisbury did not personally find a phone, he said that one or two were found in the residence.
After an extended break while courtroom staff attempted to troubleshoot the projector for the benefit of the jury, the court is back in session. Salisbury is still on the stand, and direct examination by the prosecution continued.
Salisbury described the spent case on the carpet from a handgun round. It was a 10mm round, Salisbury testified. He said the apartment was small and cluttered, with a dresser preventing the door from fully opening.
Other photos showed Meireis from other angles, including an angle showing his wallet, Salisbury said. The wallet contained Meireis’ ID and more than $200.
“It was a large sum of money,” Salisbury said.
Another photo showed Meireis with his sweatshirt pulled up to show a small plastic bag.
“I would have seen lividity and the dime baggie,” Salisbury said, when asked what he would have seen when he pulled up the sweatshirt. Lividity occurs in a body when the heart stops circulating blood and the blood thickens and settles. The dime baggie contained what appeared to be methamphetamine, with the number 777 printed on it. Rigor mortis had also set in, said Salisbury.
“There appeared to be a bullet hole in his head,” Salisbury said, indicating an area above his nose.
“(The photo) shows him lying on his right side with his head towards the couch and his out in front of him,” said Salisbury, describing how Meiries was found. He was identified by his drivers license, Salisbury said during direct examination.
“There was one wound on his head,” Salisbury noted.
There was blood on the couch Tonsmeire was found on, as well as the floor and one of the walls. Other photos showed the position and victims and layout of the room.
“She had injury to directly below the left eye,” said Salisbury, describing a photo of Tonsmeire as she was found on the couch.
Salisbury also detailed the crime scene markers in the room for the jury, which were used to indicate where important details for the investigation were, such as the positions of the victim.
Tonsmeire’s apartment was only a few hundred square feet, and had an attached bedroom. Salsibury described how they methodically entered the apartment as they continued their investigation.
“A sweatshirt. Couldn’t see the subject’s face. Dark pants and socks. I couldn’t see any part of their skin at all,” Salsibury said, describing Meireis as he found them during direct examination. Salsibury said the other victim was wearing what could have been pajamas, but he couldn’t see their face.
There was a large quantity of what Salsibury identified as blood on the floor.
“I can see what appears to be a couple of pipes,” said Salisbury, describing what he saw in one of the photos. Based on his training, Salisbury said one was a pipe for methamphetamine and one for marijuana.
Salisbury arrived at the apartment with Dubois, looking at the vehicles present out front: a white pickup truck, and a green SUV parked askew in front of Tonsmeire’s apartment. Salisbury also described the layout and location of the apartment within the building.
Salsibury went on to describe what they observed outside the apartment before making entry.
Sgt. Sterling Salisbury is this morning’s first witness. Salisbury has worked for the Juneau Police Department for 12 years, and currently acts as a patrol sergeant. Before that, he was a criminal investigator in the Criminal Investigation Unit, which involves investigating major felonies and crimes.
Salisbury was called in to investigate two deceased persons in an apartment complex on Nov. 15, 2015. He met with then-Detective Dubois and headed down to the scene, where they met with responding officers.
“When we first got there, we were waiting for Sgt. Branson to get a search warrant for the residence,” Salisbury said. “You could kind of see inside the door, and you could kind of see two deceased persons.”
Prosecuting attorney John Darnall had Salisbury confirm the apartment complex and geographical location for the jury.
The trial for a man charged with a 2015 double murder in Douglas enters its third day.
Laron Carlton Graham, 42, is charged with two counts of murder for the shooting deaths of Elizabeth Tonsmeire and Robert Meireis.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or email@example.com.