Prosecuting Attorney John Darnall, from the Office of Special Prosecutions, right, shows pictures of recovered bullets and their casings to Juneau Police Department Sgt. Matt DuBois during the double murder trial of Laron Carlton Graham in Juneau Superior Court on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Graham is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the November 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Prosecuting Attorney John Darnall, from the Office of Special Prosecutions, right, shows pictures of recovered bullets and their casings to Juneau Police Department Sgt. Matt DuBois during the double murder trial of Laron Carlton Graham in Juneau Superior Court on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Graham is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the November 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Police detective’s testimony, Fifth Amendment defenses mark trial Monday

Witness pleads the Fifth in double murder case

A trial for a 2015 double murder was marred Monday as a witness’ attorney claimed that making him testify would violate his Fifth Amendment rights.

Thomas Jack Jr., serving a sentence of 40 years for sexual assault of a minor, was excused from testifying after his attorney filed a motion on the grounds that his testimony would violate his right not to incriminate himself.

In 2016, Jack was incarcerated in Lemon Creek Correctional Center and shared a cell with his nephew, James LeBlanc-Tweedy. LeBlanc-Tweedy exchanged notes with the defendant in Monday’s double murder trial, Laron Carlton Graham, 42. Graham allegedly passed a note to LeBlanc-Tweedy claiming he killed Elizabeth Tonsmeire, 34, and Robby Meireis, 36. LeBlanc-Tweedy testified earlier in the trial that he talked with Jack for advice before consulting with his attorney as he tried to get word of the confession to the police.

Laron Carlton Graham in Juneau Superior Court on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Graham is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the November 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Laron Carlton Graham in Juneau Superior Court on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Graham is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the November 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sgt. Matthew DuBois also testified on his findings as a police detective at the time of the 2015 murder. DuBois was the on duty detective on Nov. 15, 2015, when the police were called by John “Kelly” Tonsmeire, Elizabeth Tonsmeire’s father, who had discovered the murder scene.

“I got a call from Sgt. Dallas requesting the criminal investigation unit’s assistance at a crime scene,” DuBois said during direct examination. “I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to do it by myself, and I made calls to other detectives in the unit.”

DuBois was responsible for photographing the scene as they found it, so that events could be reconstructed in the future. DuBois testified during direct examination that the apartment was small and cluttered, and there was presence of drug paraphernalia.

“There were marijuana pipes, methamphetamine pipes, syringes, pills, dime baggies,” DuBois said during direct examination.

The pills were likely ibuprofen or aspirin, DuBois said. The dime bags contained methamphetamine, verified by field testing.

[Fingerprint expert, former corrections officer testify in double murder trial]

On the victims, DuBois testified that apart from a single gunshot wound to the head each, there was no other signs of trauma. DuBois said that he found the round that killed Tonsmeire tangled in her hair near the exit wound in the back of her neck. The gunshot, at such close range, had caused what’s called “stippling” from unburnt gunpowder being driven into skin hard enough to tattoo it in, DuBois said. He had seen this before, both with his training as a police officer and as a soldier in Baghdad, DuBois testified during direct examination.

The round that ended Meireis’ life proved more difficult to locate.

“Mr. Meireis was covered in a lot of blood. It was very thick in some areas. It was very difficult to locate the exit wound without washing his body,” Dubois said during direct examination. “I realized that the bullet had exited Mr. Meireis’ body and it was reasonable to believe that it was still in the vicinity.”

The bullet was located two days after the beginning of the investigation in the arm of a sofa behind Meireis, DuBois said.

Once they had the physical evidence in hand, DuBois said, they began investigating people who had been at Tonsmeire’s apartment on Friday, Nov. 13. Brandon Stephens gave the police names of other individuals who had been there, including Bill Reyes, and a large African-American man known as “G”.

After a little bit, police were able to narrow down the identity of “G” as Laron Graham, running down his aliases and phone number.

“There was a lot of pieces that fell into place to identify “G”,” Dubois said during direct examination. “Myself along with other members of the police department started looking into that name.”

The trial will continue Tuesday morning.


• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.


More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 26

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson answers questions from state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
State officials working to meet Friday deadline for revised transportation plan

The federal government rejected the plan on Feb. 9, citing numerous deficiencies

(Getty Images)
Alaska Republicans head to the polls Tuesday with Trump, Haley and Ramaswamy on the ballot

On Super Tuesday, March 5, Alaska Republicans will join their counterparts in… Continue reading

Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, speaks March 20, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Proposal to define a fetus as a person in Alaska’s criminal code faces pushback

Opponents testified that the bill would threaten Alaskans’ abortion rights

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks Monday, May 8, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House approves bigger merit scholarship for in-state high school students

The Alaska House of Representatives voted on Monday without opposition to raise… Continue reading

A mountain biker takes advantage of a trail at Eaglecrest Ski Area during the summer of 2022. The city-owned resort is planning to vastly expand its summer activities with a new gondola and the facilities by 2026. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Eaglecrest’s big summertime plans, including the gondola, get OK from planning commission

Ski area also planning new summit lodge, snowtubing park, bike trails and picnic pavilion by 2026.

Spruce Root was invited by the U.S. Forest Service to help roll out the Tongass National Forest Plan Revision process. (Photo by Bethany Goodrich)
Resilient Peoples and Place: Stronger Together in 2024 — A letter from the Sustainable Southeast Partnership

Founded in 2012, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP) is an Indigenous values-led… Continue reading

Students, parents and teachers rally outside Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé prior to a school board meeting Tuesday, seeking a change in the board’s decision to consolidate Juneau’s two high schools beginning with the next school year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Layoffs and larger classes planned along with consolidation at local schools, but BSA increase would help

District leaders not counting on funds approved by Legislature, due to veto threat by governor.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, Feb. 26, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read