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Four people testify in day three of Rhett Martin trial, attorneys debate direction for day four

The jury saw dozens of photos taken from various crime scenes. They also learned DNA results and heard from the victim's son on Wednesday.

Posted: Oct 21, 2020 8:41 PM
Updated: Oct 21, 2020 9:15 PM

FOWLER, Ind. (WLFI) – Only four people testified on day three of Rhett Martin’s jury trial. As we reported on Tuesday, ten people testified before the court yesterday. However, the state took a lot of time questioning the first two witnesses of the day.

As we’ve previously reported, Martin is accused of killing Daniel Riegle in his Fowler home in the early morning hours of December 6th, 2019. He is also accused of arson. Riegle’s home was set on fire and the investigation found that it was set intentionally. His cousin and former roommate, Duane Scott Muse, is also charged in the crime.

Indiana State Police Crime Scene Technician, Sgt. Duane Datzman, was questioned for the entire morning. He took hundreds of photos of the various crime scenes involved in the case. This included Riegle’s home, Muse and Martin’s home and various vehicles. The state presented around fifty of those photos for him to explain and for the jury to see.

The photos first began at Riegle’s home, located on Polk Avenue in Fowler. He took photos of bloodstains on the floor and the walls where firefighters said they found his body. He said the front door had no apparent signs of forced entry and that the deadbolt and doorknob were both unlocked. He confirmed that firefighters did force entry in the back door of the home.

He said he looked for any signs of a spent firearm cartridge or a bullet inside and outside the home, but found nothing. He used a metal detector to scan debris brought out by firefighters. In one of the closets, he confirmed that he found two empty Garrett pinpointer metal detector boxes and an empty metal detector head set box. The jury saw the boxes during testimony on Tuesday.

On December 7th, he said he took photos of Riegle’s car, which had been transferred to the ISP Post in Lafayette. There were several black smudges on the outside of the car in the shape of fingers. He said he lifted those markings to be tested. There was also what appeared to be a hand print left in the dirt on the trunk. Sgt. Datzman said there were no finger print ridge details on this marking and was not able to lift a print.

On December 11th, Sgt. Datzman said he processed the trash that was taken from Martin and Muse’s home at the Fowler town park. He said they decided not to process it at the Fowler Police Department because the concrete could have oil or fuel residue that might confuse the dogs coming to sniff out the items. In the trash, Datzman photographed what looked like a vehicle key that had been ground down. He also found blue latex gloves. They found a fabric glove that had the fingers cut off it, and strips of cloth that appeared to t-shirt material.

He said while at the Fowler park looking through the trash, he saw a red Ford F150 pulling a box truck. He said the box truck was making a lot of noise and the rear wheels had locked up. He said he called Det. Russell and told him which way the trucks were heading.

Sgt. Datzman said he helped execute the search warrant at Muse and Martin’s home, located on West 4th Street in Fowler. He took photos of the inside and outside of the house, as well as the various cars and box truck sitting outside. In photos of the exterior of the house, you can see several security cameras. He said the cameras were taken as evidence. A red plastic gas can with a red plastic hose were photographed sitting on the ground near the detached garage.

Inside the box truck he photographed cans of mineral spirits along with flooring materials and miscellaneous tools. The box truck was eventually taken to the ISP Post in Lafayette. There, Det. Datzman photographed a black hard plastic gun case and a green soft gun case. Inside the black case he found two boxes of 9 millimeter ammunition and a receipt for Martin’s purchase of a 9mm Glock from 2017. Inside the green case, he found a 9mm Glock along with three magazines for the handgun and back straps. Both boxes and their contents were brought out of evidence and shown to the jury.

Inside Muse and Martin’s home, Datzman photographed a large Garrett metal detector case that had a large metal detector inside. He also found a pair of headphones and a small orange pinpointer metal detector. The pinpointer had the same serial number as one from the box found in Riegle’s home. He photographed a Minelli 12-gauge shotgun on the couch, brass knuckles on the floor, a collapsible baton like the ones police officers use, several electronic devices that were taken into custody, lock picks and an ammunition box in the waste bin.

Datzman photographed another apparent vehicle key that had been ground down on a side table in the living room. He also found the camera monitor that was connected to the security cameras. He said it was on and he could see other investigators working outside through the monitor. He took pictures of several loose cartridges on the floor, on a table and on some shelves. He found a gun holster on the floor near a recliner, and multiple loaded speed motors used in revolvers.

There is one actual bedroom in the home on the main floor, just off the living room. Datzman testified that it was Muse’s bedroom. Inside he found an Idaho driver’s license and an Idaho conceal carry permit for Muse. He took a picture of a .22 caliber rifle in the corner of the bedroom. In a backpack he found a loaded .38 caliber Derringer and a loaded 45 automatic pistol with a magazine and cartridge in the gun chamber. He found a single shot 12 gauge shotgun that was also loaded along with various loose cartridges around the bedroom.

In the upstairs part of the house, he photographed several dozen love note cards that were laid out on the floor. The name “Sonya” appeared on a few of them. Dan Riegle’s daughter-in-law, Sonya Riegle, testified on Tuesday that she had an on-again-off-again affair with Martin. There was also folded laundry and a body armor vest found upstairs.

Some other objects Datzman photographed around the house included a box of blue latex gloves under the kitchen sink, a broken car key fob in a kitchen drawer, cans of mineral spirits and acetone on the back porch, a metal grinder with recent shavings around it on the back porch and various laptops and cellphones found around the house.

Sgt. Datzman said he searched Martin and Muse’s cars at the ISP Post in Lafayette on December 11th. Inside a silver Dodge Avenger, they found the vehicle registration that showed it belonged to Martin. He took a photo of a .38 caliber cartridge on the floor between the front passenger seat and the door. He said it matched the cartridges found in the Derringer found in Muse’s bedroom.

Benton County Prosecutor John Wright continued his questioning well after the midmorning break. Eventually, defense attorney Mike Troemel got his chance to ask Sgt. Datzman questions. Datzman confirmed that neither of the box trucks he searched had been locked. Troemel made sure Datzman clarified that the cartridge found in Martin’s car matched a gun found among Scott Muse’s possessions. He confirmed that the apparent love notes found upstairs were already laid out when he had found them and that they had similar penmanship. He confirmed that the latex gloves found in the trash were similar to the ones found in Muse’s bedroom.

Troemel asked if they checked the ownership of any of the guns found in Muse’s room. Sgt. Datzman said they did check but couldn’t remember the results. When showing photos from the living room, Datzsman had noted a piece of paper on a table that appeared to be a work schedule. Troemel asked him if it was Muse’s schedule from his new job at the Dollar General. Datzman said he was unsure.

Troemel then moved to the trash processing. He asked if there appeared to be fecal matter on the strips of cloth found in the trash. Datzman said it did appear to be fecal matter. He said it was probably used as toilet paper since there was a disconnect notice addressed to Muse found in the trash for their water utility. He confirmed that they brought in a cadaver dog and an accelerant dog to sniff the trash. He confirmed that both dogs alerted to items in the trash, but Datzman said he did not take note of what those items were. Datzman confirmed that the dogs also alerted to items found upstairs inside Martin and Muse’s home.

Next, Troemel asked him about the DNA swabs he took. Datzman said he swabbed the .38 Derringer and the 45 pistol for DNA. He said he swabbed Riegle’s steering wheel. He said he was unsure of any results from those DNA tests. He said they swabbed a pair of pants found in the trash, but was unsure of any other tests done.

By this time, it was nearly 12:45 in the afternoon. Judge Rex Kepner released the court for a lunch break. When court resumed at 2pm, Idelle Ritterskamp from the ISP Laboratory in Indianapolis took the stand next. She is a forensic biologist with a focus on DNA analysis. After spending about 20 minutes explaining her credentials and some basic practices of the lab, the state asked her about several of the results from her tests.

She said she received four swabs taken by police of the 9mm Glock. Two of them failed to have enough quantity for a successful analysis. One swab profile analysis had a “very strong support” that Martin was a contributor to the DNA profile. She said she was able to rule out Muse as a contributor on the swab.

For the .38 Derringer and the Rock Island Armory pistol, both had one successful swab. Both came back with “very strong support” that Muse was a contributor to the DNA profile. She said she also received three cut off finger parts of a glove in individual bags. Each glove fragment had “very strong support” that Muse was a contributor to the DNA profile. She testified that she took three samples from a blue latex glove she had been sent. Two swabs failed, but one was had “very strong support” that Muse was a contributor.

During cross examination, Troemel wanted to know about the swabs taken from Riegle’s steering wheel. Ritterskamp confirmed that out of four swabs taken, two failed. One showed that Riegle had “very strong support” for being a contributor. She said this is something they expect, seeing as it was his car. However, on the second swab there was “limited” support that Muse was a contributor to the DNA. Ritterskamp clarified that it was a very small chance that Muse contributed, but that it was theoretically possible. She confirmed that Martin was found to be excluded from the findings.

Ritterskamp confirmed for the defense that of the several swabs taken from Riegle’s car, nothing could be traced back to Martin. She also testified that there was only a “limited” chance that Martin’s DNA was found on the metal detectors found in his home. 

Next to the stand, the state called Nick Riegle. He testified that he is Daniel Riegle’s son and that he is married to Sonya Riegle. He confirmed that he knew of the cameras Sonya found in her bathroom. He said he was there when they confronted his father, who had been living with them for about a year. He said his dad admitted to it and they immediately kicked him out and he was gone by the end of the day.

He confirmed what Sonya testified to on Tuesday, saying they moved the camera and his other computer equipment to the garage. He said he believed Martin and Sonya restarted their affair soon after the camera incident. He said she would hide it from him at first, but soon would openly tell him she was going to see Martin. He said he started working for TMC Transportation as a cross-country semi-truck driver. After learning that Martin was moving in, he joined the company, saying he wanted to get away from his home life and because he needed the money. He said he was essentially homeless, living out of his truck for several months.

When he learned that Sonya had kicked Martin out in December of 2018, he said started returning home more often. When Sonya told him she was getting threats from Martin about him, they decided to try to avoid Martin as best they could. Nick testified that he would park his truck in lots one to two hours away and would have someone come pick him up and take him home. He said he saw Martin once while was being driven back to his truck at a truck stop in Kentland. He said Sonya was so scared by seeing Martin, he decided to report it to police. He also confirmed to seeing Martin sitting outside their house in his car.

He testified that he first learned about the house fire from his brother Marcus. He said he was driving his truck near Augusta, Georgia. He said he found out a little while later over the phone that his father had been found dead inside. He said his trucking company had him rent a car so he could make the drive back home, and that he basically did the 900 mile drive in one trip.

He confirmed for the state that he did not know Muse and that he had never met or seen Muse before.

The final person to testify on Wednesday was Detective Benjamin Rector with ISP. Det. Rector is a certified cell phone examiner and he said he made a copy of Martin’s phone they found at his home. The state showed a texting conversation between Martin and his mother and another between Martin and his friend Chad Ray.

Rector said he interviewed Martin and that he appeared to have extensive knowledge on cell phones. He said Martin told him he slept on the couch at Muse’s home after he had been kicked out by his girlfriend in December of 2018. He said his last interaction with Nick Riegle had been in January or February. He said he had sent an intimate photo of Sonya to Nick, alluding to the fact that he would eventually win her back from him. Martin also told him that Nick owed him $10,000.

Martin said in the interview that he and his cousin were home all night on the night of December 5th. He said they went to bed around 2 or 3am and that he didn’t wake up until around 3pm on the 6th. He said that Muse might have left that house but that he must have done it while he was asleep, if he did at all. Det. Rector said Martin was adamant that they had both been home all night.

When being questioned about the cameras Sonya had found, Martin told Rector that the incident had drastically affected her and that she didn’t seem to trust him anymore. Rector said he asked him if he knew where Riegle lived, Martin replied to the effect of, “how the in the h*ll would I know where he lived?” Martin told Rector that he had never seen Riegle around town. Rector said Martin appeared to have forgotten Dan Riegle’s name at one point in the conversation, even after having talked about him for several minutes.

During cross-examination, Troemel asked if Det. Rector had been present for Martin’s voluntary interview on December 6th. Rector said he was there. He said Martin told him Muse had access to his car and would often times take advantage of the opportunity. Rector confirmed that he and Det. Edwards saw Muse driving Martin’s car around town in the following days.

Judge Kepner dismissed the jury around 4:30pm, after Det. Rector was released from the witness stand. However, after the jury was gone, he wanted to take care of some housekeeping items with the attorneys. Prosecutor Wright confirmed that they would be done with state witnesses by lunchtime on Thursday.

Troemel said they had subpoenaed Duane Scott Muse to testify before the jury. Troemel said he expects Muse to invoke his 5th Amendment right to silence. If he does so before the jury, he wants to call Det. Edwards to discuss several interviews he conducted with Muse where he said Muse gave contradictory statements. However, he is arguing because of due process, the state should not be able to cross-examine Det. Edwards. The state feels this is not fair.

Wright and Troemel began to debate this with Judge Kepner. Judge Kepner said he wanted to take the night to think about it and that they will have to budget time on Thursday to continue the debate. He said his ultimate goal is to make sure the final decision made in the trial is one that will stick and won’t be sent back to them from an appellate court.

Both attorneys felt confident they could get through what needed to be done and that final instructions could be given to the jury on Thursday before they begin their verdict deliberation.

Day one of Rhett Martin Trial

Day two of Rhett Martin Trial

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