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Apartment resident questioned story of Iowa City landlord shooting suspect

BY SAM LANE | JANUARY 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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Andrew Shepard said he was skeptical about what Justin Marshall told him in the days following the killing of a Broadway Condominiums landlord in October 2009.

Shepard — a condominium resident and the man who called 911 around 4 p.m. on Oct. 8, 2009, after discovering the body of John Versypt lying on a landing near the building’s back door — was one of the witnesses the state presented Thursday, the third day of Marshall’s first-degree murder trial.

Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness and assistant prosecutor Meredith Rich-Chappell also called numerous law-enforcement authorities to the stand throughout the afternoon. They testified about their actions at the scene of the alleged murder.

Shepard testified Marshall never actually admitted to killing Versypt but did say he had a gun “just like” the camouflaged .38caliber handgun found near the body. Also, Marshall said he was in Shepard’s apartment just before Shepard called 911. However, Shepard testified he knew that was not the case because he “knows everyone who goes in and out” of his apartment.

A few days after Versypt’s killing, Shepard said officials asked him to help with the investigation. He agreed to wear a wire when he spoke about the killing with Justin Marshall and Charles William Curtis Thompson.

Thompson is the 20-year-old who was also charged with Versypt’s slaying. After Thompson’s September 2011 trial ended in a mistrial, he pleaded guilty to accessory to a felony and signed documents stating he knew Marshall killed Versypt. The mistrial occurred after the prosecution played part of a videotaped interview with Thompson that officials agreed would not be shown to the jury.

During Shepard’s recorded meeting with Marshall and Thompson, Marshall seemed to know Versypt had been shot in the head and said the incident might have been “a conflict gone wrong,” Shepard testified.

Thomas Gaul, Marshall’s attorney, called into question the $1,000 cash reward Shepard received from CrimeStoppers for his assistance. Gaul also asked Shepard about an altercation he had with Thompson’s brother and friend. And though he knew Thompson carried a gun, Shepard said he never had an issue with Thompson himself.

The prosecution and the defense repeatedly showed the jury several photos from the scene of the crime Thursday afternoon. Each time Versypt’s body flashed on the courtroom’s screen, his widow, Janet Versypt, closed her eyes, bowed her head, and breathed deeply.

Both Gaul and Rich-Chappell spent significant time questioning the law-enforcement witnesses about the placement of items — including the gun, a drill, a screwdriver, a no-smoking sign, and a wallet — on the floor around Versypt’s body.

Iowa City police Officer Jeremy Bossard testified he was the first official to see the body. He observed gunshot wounds to Versypt’s right hand and face. He took Versypt’s pulse from his left wrist, but felt nothing.

Bossard also said he did not touch any pieces of evidence at the scene and did not put Versypt’s ID on top of his wallet — the way it appeared in court photos. The wallet and other items in the photo appeared to be “approximately” where Bossard saw them at the scene, he testified.

Gaul jumped on the answer.

“Well, that’s kind of my concern,” Gaul said. “Approximately where it was is a big difference from exactly how you saw it.”

Officer Andrew Rich later testified he did pick up Versypt’s wallet, took out his identification card, and ran his information back to dispatch, before placing the card on top of the wallet roughly where he found it.

Rich-Chappell asked Rich if it is sometimes more important to identify a victim as soon as possible rather than wait to find out later. Rich said he made that assessment in Versypt’s case.

“To quickly identify someone, especially in a case like this, may actually lead you to the person who may have done it,” Rich said after speaking at length about the bullet hole he found in the hallway’s drywall on the day of the slaying.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. today in the Johnson County Courthouse. Lyness said the state still has around 15 witnesses to bring to the stand. The trial is scheduled to last two weeks.

If convicted, Marshall faces life in prison.


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