WARSAW — It was an emotional morning for the families of Tara Thornburg and Josh Knisley in the first day of trial against Brandon Woody and Kyle DeHart. An audio recording and body camera were entered as exhibits and heard before the court and the 62 individuals filling the courtroom.
Gasps of cries came from a few in the audience when Thornburg’s voice was heard on the 911 call. More cries could be heard when Syracuse Police Officer Michael Bumbaugh’s body cam briefly showed Knisley deceased on the bed.
Only three witnesses were called – Sarah Lancaster, assistant director of the county’s 911 communications system; Bumbaugh; and Sean Brenneman – before Thomas Hursey, the state’s key witness took the stand. Family and friends of Thornburg and Knisley once again heard the details of their loved ones deaths.
Hursey, who is also facing murder, was asked to testify what transpired the two days prior to the shootings and the murders. He testified of several days of drinking and smoking marijuana, of the three being at the Comfort Inn, and going to Kyle DeHart’s residence at 11136 N. 450E, Syracuse.
Hursey, who the defense painted as a liar in opening statements, sat in the witness chair with his arms crossed during his testimony. His voice shaking, he noted on several occasions he may not have things in chronological order as they happened a long time ago. He spoke of DeHart, Woody, himself and a fourth individual, Jake Larkin, traveling to Mishawaka, But he could not tell the court where all they stopped, saying they kept going back and forth between several locations. He also couldn’t tell the court if they stopped at any location on their return visit to Syracuse, stating “I honestly don’t know. I passed out.”
Hursey, explained on the evening of the murder, Larkin was taken to his residence, near the car wash in Syracuse. Then the trio left. A cellphone was heard going off in the car. Once the phone was located Hursey stated DeHart “flipped out,” because the GPS was activated. The phone was taken back to DeHart’s residence powered down and put on a shelf. Hursey, who stated he wanted to go home, was told they would be getting some “weed” and then he (Hursey) would be taken home.
The jury heard how Hursey heard one of the two defendants state they would be “rolling her,” or not intending to pay for the “trees.” But he couldn’t remember who said it. He also stated Josh Knisley’s vehicle was seen in the driveway, with DeHart stating “Ol’ Boy’s here,” with Woody stating not to worry about it. Hursey explained they parked the vehicle along a side street and walked through the alley to the residence.
According to Hursey, Woody knocked on the door and Thornburg answered the door in her pajamas. He explained of the group going upstairs, but told to be quiet as Knisley was sleeping. The jury then heard the explicit details of the shooting and the disposal of shoes and the gun. Hursey also testified to what transpired after going back to the DeHart residence and the following morning.
Hursey was questioned about his lying to police on several occasions and what made him tell the truth. Just before breaking for lunch Hursey was questioned about recently being threatened. He recounted an incident Sept. 19 when Woody was brought to the same cell block, and came into Hursey’s cell and told Hursey if he testified, his daughter, his mother and himself would come up missing. This was reportedly verified by Hursey’s cellmate who was present when the threats were made.
The jury recessed at noon, to reconvene at 1:20 p.m. when the defense counsels will cross examine Hursey’s testimony.