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Neighbors testify in Thompson murder trial

BY ERIC MOORE | SEPTEMBER 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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Ronda Bluitt initially told police she saw one man in jeans and a black hoodie running outside her window the night of landlord John Versypt's slayiing. But Thursday, in her testimony during Charles William Curtis Thompson's trial, she said she saw two people.

Bluitt, who lived next door to Thompson in the apartments at 1958 Broadway, concluded her testimony and cross-examination Thursday at the Johnson County Courthouse.

Thompson was charged with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting Versypt when Thompson was 17 in October 2009. He is now 19; he is being tried as an adult.

After Bluitt's testimony, defense attorney Tyler Johnston cross-examined her. His questions focused on what he labeled inconsistencies between her initial account of the night of the murder, subsequent interviews, a deposition held in January, and the testimony she gave Thursday.

"When you were talking to agent Sandhu [of the Iowa City police], who was trying to solve this murder, you decided, instead of giving him the correct information, that it was as only one person instead of two," Johnston said.

She said she "didn't feel safe" talking to the police.

"All of them were rude," Bluitt said. "They were rude, I was rude. I didn't want to hear what anybody had to say."

Johnston brought up video interviews conducted by Iowa City police on the day of the homicide and roughly a week later. Bluitt said she hadn't seen them. She appeared aggravated when asked why she hadn't reviewed the video.

"I remember, it's in my mind, it's been there," Bluitt said. "And I'm glad this day has come so I can get on with my life."

The video file of the first interview, held on the evening of the killing, was shown to the court. In the video, Bluitt is shown joking around with the interviewer. The defense tried to use this video footage to discredit Bluitt.

Though she initially said she changed the story because she wasn't comfortable talking to police, she later said she didn't recall there were two people until later.

There was also some discretion regarding her recollection of what Thompson and Justin Marshall — who is also charged with murder in the case but will be tried separately — were wearing the day of the murder.

Johnston read a quotation from Bluitt taken from a deposition in January in which she said "he [Thompson] and Justin had on black hoods."

In her testimony today, Bluitt described Marshall as wearing "some shorts and a jacket."

Her demeanor at the start of her testimony was calm and confident, but she grew increasingly aggravated as the defense's questions continued. The same was true for her boyfriend, James Brown, who was also brought in by the prosecution to testify.

Brown said he saw a gun while spending time in the apartment Thompson and Marshall shared the night before the murder. He said it was black and "had some shiny stuff on it, with a brown handle." This was inconsistent with his statements in the deposition in January, in which he said the gun was "brass."

The two witnesses also provided differing layouts of the way their apartment was configured. This affects where Bluitt and Brown were sitting, which could affect Bluitt's credibility regarding whether she could see out the balcony window.

Johnston said he believed the prosecution told Brown to change his use in terminology for the furniture in the apartment. Before the noon break, he referred to a "sofa" and "love seat," but after the break, referred to both items as "pieces of furniture." His account of their placement was also inconsistent with his wife's.

Also, Johnston accused each witness of having changed their stories after discussions with the prosecution. The prosecution, represented by Assistant County Attorney Meredith Rich-Chappel, disputed that, especially in regards to Brown's statements. She said the defense had "no basis" for these claims.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. today in the Johnson County Courthouse with Johnston's cross-examination of Brown.


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