February 14, 2012
EDITOR’S NOTE: This report includes details from trial testimony that may be disturbing for readers.
Jurors in Detra Farries’ dragging-death trial boarded a small tour bus Tuesday and retraced the route she drove Feb. 23 as a Colorado Springs tow-truck driver was dragged to his death behind her.
The trip came after a morning of testimony in which police described testing to gauge Farries’ field of vision from the driver’s seat. Police also testified about Farries’ demeanor and the search for missing DVDs of witness interviews.
With a police escort in front and sheriff’s deputies trailing, the bus drove slowly past the point where Allen Lew Rose, 35, slipped out of his boots and came to a rest near Platte Avenue and Babcock Road.
A small tarp covered a memorial that was erected after Rose’s 1.4-mile-long ordeal — part of a judge’s orders before the trip was approved.
Farther down the route on Babcock, prosecutors arranged to have Rose’s boots restored to where they landed in the street.
The tour began at Hill Park Apartments, 360 N. Murray Blvd., where the tragedy also began.
Prosecutors allege Farries caused Rose to be ensnared by a tow cable when she drove away from an attempted towing. Hooked to the fleeing SUV, the other end of the cable slipped off the tow truck, according to police and witnesses.
Farries’ sport-utility vehicle and a J & J Towing truck were parked in what looked like the same spots shown in pictures at trial.
Jurors were allowed to roam the scene. Several ducked for a view under the back of the sport-utility vehicle, and one man lay prone on the ground just beneath it. Two eyewitnesses have testified that Rose “threw” tow hooks onto the rear axle as Farries pulled away in a bid to keep her vehicle from being towed, and at least one juror has asked in court if the axle was visible.
Reporters were kept at least 100 feet from the presentation. The bus departed the courthouse after a closed session during which the courtroom was locked.
There were few signs of protesters or complications as reporters followed the bus — only traffic disruptions.
In court earlier Tuesday, police officers described a test they performed with Farries’ Suburban to check her claims she couldn’t see Rose being dragged — drawing questions from Farries’ defense attorneys over their methods.
In a parking lot near the Police Operations Center on South Nevada Avenue, detective Phil Tollefson said he laid on a mechanic’s creeper about 50 feet behind Farries’ parked SUV — the distance at which police say Rose was dragged.
Behind the SUV, Tollefson sat and lay on the creeper in different positions along the rope’s 50-foot radius.
Detective Mareshah Hale sat in the driver’s seat and used the side mirrors. She said she had a “clear view” of Tollefson at some points in at least one mirror. At another point, she said she could recognize only “a blob.”
In response to a question by Farries’ public defender Eydie Elkins, Hale said she couldn’t remember if the tinted driver’s window was up or down during the test. Elkins said photos show the window was rolled down.
According to the defense, Farries had her three working windows rolled up, and all were heavily tinted, witnesses have said.
One juror nodded her head as a different detective, Wayne Bichel, said he frequently checks his mirrors when driving with trailers, even during turns.
Police considered doing a complete re-creation with a dummy or a duffel bag but decided against it partly because of logistical and safety concerns.
Bichel said police were concerned about the road worthiness of Farries’ SUV and didn’t want to subject the community to the trauma of reliving Rose’s dragging — a statement that drew a sharp objection by Elkins.
The same detective was put in the hot seat as Elkins questioned him and another detective on missing DVDs.
Out of nearly 60 police evidence discs, the two that went missing were those of eyewitnesses the defense has called the “crux” of their case. Before trial, Bichel told Judge Jann P. DuBois that the “only explanation” he could provide was that computer video files weren’t transferred onto DVDs, as police protocol requires.
The explanation turned suspect when Detective Mike Montez took the stand the day jury selection began and said Bichel asked for the DVDs and said he would make the required copies and label them.
When Montez asked for them back a few months later, he and Bichel realized they were lost and began a search, he testified.
“How does it feel to be falsely accused of misconduct by another detective?” Elkins asked Montez on Tuesday when he was called to the stand by prosecutors.
Montez, who said he has never lost a piece of evidence, said he didn’t interpret Bichel’s statements as an attempt to blame him. Montez told jurors he had trouble sleeping and eating when the discs turned up missing.
Elkins also asked Bichel, who has been absent for most testimony, why he remained in court during Montez’s testimony.
“Was that to make him uncomfortable about it?” she asked, drawing a quick “no” from Bichel.
Bichel, the lead detective, said he wanted to be present for all testimony but couldn’t because of recent homicides.
The loss of the recorded interviews led Judge DuBois to grant the defense “wide latitude” to question the integrity of the investigation at trial.
When Elkins asked Montez if any internal investigations have been launched, he said police started a “dialog” on how to make improvements. Montez said he wasn’t aware if anyone had been disciplined over the oversight.
The defense said the error deprived them of the chance to show jurors the witnesses’ “firmness” in testimony that Rose threw tow hooks onto her vehicle and then chased her on foot as she left the complex.
Rose was snared by the cable at the complex exit, as Farries turned onto Murray Boulevard, according to multiple witnesses.
In other testimony, Detective Tollefson, who was with Farries until 11 p.m. Feb. 23, said she was cooperative and that nothing about her demeanor or behavior suggested that she knew Rose was being dragged.
“I had no impression that she had any idea ... that she had been in any collision whatsoever,” Tollefson said.
The defense says Farries believed Rose was following her in a small green car that was in reality chasing her because she was dragging a man. She couldn’t see Rose, they argue, because she didn’t know he had been snagged and couldn’t see out of her mirrors. Both side mirrors were cracked and had missing glass. Her rearview mirror was blocked by possessions in back, police have confirmed.
If convicted, Farries could face up to 24 years on one felony count, leaving the scene of a deadly accident, and up to 12 on two lower felonies: manslaughter and vehicular homicide.