Nozolino trial: Autopsy details reveal likely use of high-powered rifle in killing

By Lance Benzel Updated: February 11, 2014 at 6:39 am • Published: February 10, 2014 | 7:20 pm

A man shot to death while shoveling snow outside his Stetson Hills home in November 2008 was likely the victim of a high-powered rifle, the El Paso County coroner testified Monday.

Testimony by Dr. Robert Bux seemed poised to bolster the prosecution theory that all four shootings attributed to Bruce J. Nozolino share a common trait: In each case, the victims were targeted from a distance by a skilled marksman.

Nozolino, 52, is accused of taking aim at players in his acrimonious 2000 divorce from his ex-wife Beverly. He is being tried on numerous charges, including first-degree murder and attempted murder.

He is an avid gun collector and competitive target shooter who once impressed a friend by delivering successive bulls eyes on a 6-inch target from 300 yards away, according to earlier testimony. The jury has also heard testimony that the former defense contractor owned at least 20 weapons, including high-powered rifles.

Police say Nozolino divided the guns among his friends, who agreed to store them knowing Nozolino was a suspect in the shootings and as investigators worked to track the guns down for forensic testing in the wake of the attacks.

Nozolino's attorneys say their client lacked safe gun storage at the condominium he moved into after leaving his marital home, but prosecutors have repeatedly suggested the weapons were actively being hidden.

So far, no forensic link has been presented between Nozolino's guns and any attacks. Prosecutors made the bombshell announcement earlier in the trial that one of Nozolino's friends recently turned over two more rifles that belonged to the defendant in 2001, but they have yet to disclose in court the results of planned forensic testing by police.

Slain in November 2008 was Richard Schreiner, a man identified by the defendant's ex-wife on the stand as a former lover.

Bux testified that Schreiner, 46, was shot once in the left side by a small-caliber, high-velocity bullet that disintegrated on impact, propelling tiny fragments of metal through his internal organs and causing massive bleeding.

"If you don't get medical care within just a few minutes, you're going to die," Bux said of the nature of the wound.

The autopsy revealed signs the bullet was at least partially encased by a copper jacket, in what Bux called another hallmark of high-velocity rounds.

Because of the absence of gunshot residue on Schreiner's clothing, Bux concluded the shooter was farther than 3 feet away - though just how far is impossible to tell from an autopsy, he said.

"I can't tell you if it's 50 feet, 500 feet or 500 yards," Bux told jurors.

A former Lockheed Martin software engineer who lost security clearance and his job amid police scrutiny in 2008, Nozolino also is accused in a January 2002 sniper attack that partially blinded a Colorado Springs divorce lawyer and earlier sniper shootings into the homes of the attorney and El Paso County's chief judge, Gilbert Martinez.

Police crime scene technicians testified Monday that gunshot residue was found inside a Nissan Pathfinder driven by Nozolino on the night the lawyer was shot - leading to courtroom sparring over the significance of the evidence.

To prosecutors, it was yet one more sign pointing to Nozolino's involvement. To his defense team, it was another indication Nozolino enjoyed firing guns.

The defense emphasized the experts' testimony that the gunshot residue could have been transferred by touch, left over from rifles being transported from a shooting range or carried by the wind if guns are being fired nearby.

Similar tests performed two months after Schreiner's shooting came back positive for gunshot residue inside a different vehicle that belonged to Nozolino, sparking a similar debate.

Prosecutors also showed surveillance video of a September 2005 incident in which Nozolino was briefly detained at the Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex, allegedly because he flouted a judicial order that he be escorted wherever he went inside.

The defense pointed out the only written evidence of such an order is a memo issued by Chief Judge Martinez two days after the day in question.

A clerk, a sheriff's deputy and a security officer testified the order was in effect at the time of Nozolino's visit, which included a stop at Martinez's third-floor office, where Nozolino left a document in a mailbox outside his door.

The security officer testified that "activity logs" that would have documented the disputed order were apparently lost when a new supervisor rotated in and a computer was switched out.

"Past 2006, I have no activity logs," said Claudia List, the courthouse security administrator.

El Paso County sheriff's deputy Rafael Gomez described a brief confrontation near the courthouse exit in which Nozolino came "about an inch from my face" when stopped by the deputy on his way out.

Nozolino was detained for "officer safety" and released without charges.

Testimony is expected to continue at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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