Prosecutors attempted to demonstrate to the jury the hows, whens, wheres, whos and whats Friday in the case of a Minot man on trial for murder, encountering little resistance from the defense, as both sides seem to know that in the end, the verdict will hinge on the whys.
Jeremiah "Jerry" Tallman, 25, is charged in the shooting death of 20-year-old Joseph Sanderson on July 17, 2010, in southeast Minot's Woodridge Mobile Home Park. Testimony Thursday established that Sanderson had gone to Tallman's residence at No. 74 in Woodridge as part of a group with intentions to confront Tallman over the theft of a safe from former friend Joshua Delzer earlier that day.
Tallman later opened fire on the group after Sanderson broke out a window on Tallman's trailer with a plastic shovel. Tallman fired 10 rounds from a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, with at least three shots striking Sanderson in the back.
Dave Caldwell/MDN • Minot police officer Joshua Logan, left, looks at an evidence sheet identifying the gun in the box, which was allegedly used by Jeremiah Tallman to kill Joseph Sanderson. At right is Ward County Assistant State’s Attorney Kelly Dillon, while court reporter Renee Hermanson is in foreground.
Following the testimony of two juveniles who had been nearby when the shootings occurred, Ward County Assistant State's Attorney Kelly Dillon called Randy Alvstad, who lives across the street and whose trailer was struck by a stray round that night.
Alvstad said he was at home watching television with his grandkids at the time.
"All of the sudden I heard a bunch of popping and banging like fireworks going off," Alvstad said. Thinking the noise was coming from the street, he walked to his kitchen window, which is at the end of the trailer, closest to the street and to Tallman's residence, and looked out, he said.
He observed "three guys" hiding behind a vehicle in front of his home. Testimony Thursday established that the four men traveled to the location in Matthew Steinwand's vehicle, which was parked in front of Alvstad's trailer.
Thinking he had also seen the legs of someone lying in the street, he said he went outside to "see what was going on."
"I just took a look outside and saw that it was somebody laying there, so I went back in the house and told my grandkids to get in the living room and lay on the floor," Alvstad said. The kids were also looking out the kitchen window at some point during that time, he said.
He said the popping "didn't last very long," and he went back to the window and heard another pop, which he likened to the popping of a balloon.
"I didn't really know what it was," Alvstad said.
Later, after finding out there was a shooting, Alvstad said he started to think, "You know, it's funny that my pickup didn't get hit," as the truck was parked in the driveway in the vicinity of Steinwand's car.
"Then I looked at my place and saw that there was a bullet hole," Alvstad said.
"Where was that?" Dillon asked.
"Right above the window I was looking out," he said.
That bullet ended up traveling through the wall above the kitchen window, grazing the ceiling before lodging in a soffit.
Dillon asked Alvstad if he was afraid during the incident, to which he answered that he was.
Alvstad is one of four people - the three other members of Sanderson's party are the others - on whose behalf the state is also charging Tallman with reckless endangerment for the gunfire. Tallman also faces one count of burglary for stealing the safe from Delzer's house.
Dillon called Officer Joshua Logan of the Minot Police Department, who testified that he was the second officer on the scene that night. Officer Stephen Kenny, who was first on the scene, testified Thursday describing a somewhat chaotic scene. Kenny said that Tallman exited the trailer almost immediately after police arrival and surrendered without any further threat to the safety of officers or civilians.
Logan testified that he handcuffed Tallman and Justin Johnston, who was also in the trailer at that time, and stayed with him while Kenny and another officer cleared the trailer.
Dillon asked Logan if Tallman said anything during that period.
"What I believe I recall is that Mr. Tallman stated to Mr. Johnston, 'Don't say anything. Don't say anything,'" Logan said.
Logan also took Tallman's weapon, and retained custody of it until it was placed into evidence at the police department.
Deputy Jamie Williams of the Ward County Sheriff's Department testified that he transported Tallman to the police department.
"While you were walking him to the car, did he say anything?" Dillon asked.
"He said he 'had no choice, they were breaking my windows, I just started shooting,'" Williams said. "He later said he didn't care what happened to (himself), but he hoped the victim was OK.'"
Mitchell Ledoux testified about bullets he removed from Steinwand's vehicle at Jerome's Collision Center, "the first time in 15 years I've had to do that," he chuckled.
Next, Dillon called Sgt. Dave Goodman of the Minot Police Department, who "sat with" Tallman after he arrived at the police department.
Goodman allowed Tallman to make several phone calls during that time, all of which were recorded.
Several of those calls were played in the courtroom Friday. In one call, Tallman tells his father what happened.
"Dad, I need a lawyer," Tallman says. "I killed a man today."
"You did what to who?" his father exclaims.
Tallman then told his father he didn't even know who the victim was.
"They came to my house, they were trying to kill me," Tallman says through tears. "It was four people trying to jump me. I didn't have a phone or I would've just called the cops."
"They started hitting my house and then they broke my window ," Tallman trails off while sobbing. "It was Delzer and his friends."
During the calls, Tallman and his family are trying to reach attorney Carl Flagstad, who is representing Tallman during the trial, and Tallman's father tells him not to talk to police in the meantime.
Goodman and Capt. Bob Barnard of the Ward County Sheriff's Department testified at length about the crime scene and recovery of bullets from various locations, including the several rounds that struck Steinwand's vehicle and the one that struck Alvstad's trailer.
Jurors were shown multiple photos of the window from which the shots were fired, ricochet marks on the street, and various other pieces of evidence.
The prosecution and defense also stipulated to the forensic ballistics report prepared by the state laboratory, which would connect the bullets in question to Tallman's gun, as the defense has made no effort to deny that Tallman fired the shots that killed Sanderson.
Dillon then called Dr. William Massello, the state medical examiner, to explain his finding on the gunshot wounds to Sanderson.
Massello said Sanderson had four gunshot wounds from at least three bullets.
One round went through the back of Sanderson's right arm, and was possibly the same round that entered in the area of his right hip and became lodged near his pelvis.
Another round entered his lower back on the other side and traveled in an upward direction through his body before lodging just below the skin at the point of the left shoulder.
A third round entered near the center of Sanderson's back, pierced the heart, severing an artery, and went through the left lung before exiting the front of the chest.
Massello pointed out that the two rounds that entered the chest cavity were both traveling in an upward trajectory, indicating that Sanderson was either stumbling forward with his upper body almost horizontal to the ground, or on the ground already.
Massello said the shot that traveled vertically through the body to the shoulder could have been fatal after a period of time untreated, but the wound to the heart was certainly lethal, killing him in 10 seconds to two minutes.
"This will only be survivable if a person were to receive this wound on the doorsteps of a hospital or the operating room," Massello said.
Dillon also asked Massello about toxicology results on Sanderson, after Flagstad stated Thursday during testimony that Sanderson, who had battled drug problems since 15 years old according to his mother's testimony, "had lots of drugs in him."
Massello said Sanderson had methamphetamine, multiple painkillers and cannabinoids in his system. Otherwise, he said Sanderson was perfectly healthy.
Under cross-examination, Flagstad asked Massello if most of those drugs had to have been taken close to the time of Sanderson's death, to which Massello guessed probably within a few hours unless they had been taken chronically.
Flagstad also asked if the arm wound to Sanderson could be the result of a raised arm at the time, which Massello acknowledged was one of the positions in which that wound could be suffered.
Flagstad asked if Massello could tell the jury in which order the bullet wounds had occurred, and Massello said he couldn't.
Tallman faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted of murder.
Testimony is scheduled to continue Monday morning at the Ward County Courthouse in Minot.