Camm trial 9/25: Agony & Alibi - ‘I think they're all gone'
LEBANON, IN (WAVE) - Nelson Lockhart expected September 28, 2000 to be little different from any other Thursday that he would spend at the home of his elderly father in Georgetown; a standing across from the house of his nephew, David Camm. What happened after 9:30 p.m. still reduces him to tears almost 13 years later.
"I hear David pounding on the kitchen door, screaming at the top of his lungs," Lockhart told a Boone County jury Wednesday morning. "'Nelson, Nelson, come quick, something's happened to my kids!'"
Lockhart is the fourth witness for the defense in Camm's third trial for the murders of his wife Kimberly, 35, their son Bradley, 7, and daughter Jill, 5.
Lockhart had been on the phone with his brother, Sam, to whom he relayed Camm's plea for help. Lockhart left his father's house so quickly to follow Camm that he was still barefoot when he entered Camm's garage.
"When I see David, he's down over Brad, doing CPR," Lockhart told jurors. "And he keeps saying 'breathe.'"
Lockhart paused briefly to collect himself.
"I see Kim laying - laying on the floor, on her back, a pool of blood around her head," Lockhart continued slowly. "I asked about Jill. David says she's in the car."
Lockhart said he climbed into Kim's Bronco via the driver's side to check on his grand niece, and found her slumped in the rear passenger seat.
"I called her name, I touched her," said Lockhart. "She was cold and clammy."
Then Lockhart saw Camm still trying to revive his little boy.
"I told him, 'I think they're all gone,'" Lockhart testified. "And David kept yelling 'why couldn't I have been with them? Why did I have to play basketball?'"
From then on, Lockhart told jurors he tried to "hold it in and act like a police officer. Lockhart had served twelve years as a trooper with Kentucky State Police, which included assignments to the security detail for two governors. He also had retired after more than two decades of service with the former Jefferson County Police Department.
For Lockhart that meant treating what he'd just seen as a crime scene. It meant preventing Camm, and his own brother, Sam Lockhart, from re-entering the family garage. It meant securing the family's golden retriever, Rusty, to ensure she wouldn't contaminate potential evidence. It also meant telling the Indiana State Police lead investigator and family friend, Sean Clemons, to bring in a bloodhound to search the property.
"I wanted everything out there," Lockhart told jurors.
But prosecutors allege that Camm staged the murders and employed Lockhart as an unwitting component to cement a complicated alibi.
"When do you stop CPR?" special prosecutor Stan Levco asked.
"When you're sure the person is dead," Lockhart responded.
"But Brad had already been removed, and David already had had the chance to perform CPR," Levco continued. "Did you ask him why he stopped (to come summon you)?"
Levco also cited a call from an ISP trooper to Camm's cell phone to show that Camm had stepped away from his rescue efforts long enough to summon help from his former co-workers at the ISP's Sellersburg post.
"I can't read into his mind why he did it," Lockhart answered. "He (Camm) was alone. He probably knew that he needed help, and came to get me."
Lockhart's father's home is only about 200 yards from Camm's. But Lockhart maintains that was watching television with his father in the living room, which faces away from Camm's house, when his nephew's door knock came.
Debbie Ter'Vree, Camm's aunt, has an even shorter path to the Camm home. Her home shares a driveway with it. Ter'Vree said her daughter Hannah was best buddies with her cousins Brad and Jill, and they treated each other's homes as their own.
On the night of September 28, 2000, Ter'Vree said both garage doors were closed and she saw no vehicles when she and Hannah drove past the Camm's house at about 7:30 p.m.
"Hannah had wanted to stop and see if Brad and Jill were home to play," Ter'Vree said with her voice breaking. "I told her it didn't look like they were home, so we didn't stop. Thank God."
Ter'Vree's timetable and recall would appear to cast further doubt to the claims of Charles Boney, the serial felon convicted of and serving a 225 year sentence for the Camm family murders. Boney has testified that he delivered a gun to Camm's home just after 7 p.m. and heard Camm use it to kill his family shortly thereafter. Investigators tied Boney to the crimes through DNA on a sweatshirt that was tested only after an appeals court overturned Camm's first conviction in 2004.
Ter'Vree maintains that investigators twisted her account of events into evidence against her nephew. Specifically, Ter'Vree told jurors that she heard three loud thumps about five minutes before state troopers knocked on her door to tell her of the murders.
"Sean (Clemons) kept saying what I heard was rapid and crisp, and I said 'I know what you're asking me, and it was not gunfire,'" Ter'Vree told the jury. "I'd worked for Jefferson County Police for 23 years. I've shot, my husband was a police officer, and they hunt around here. I know what gunfire sounds like."
Ter'Vree confirmed her convictions some months later through an experiment that her brother, Sam Lockhart, conducted in Camm's garage.
"He fired gunshots into a garbage can, and then asked us if we heard them," she told the jury. "I couldn't."
Prosecutors have theorized that the murders occurred sometime between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. That is a timeframe in which Camm insists he was playing basketball at Georgetown Community Church with friends, family and co-workers.
During Wednesday morning's session, Tom Jolly, a family friend, testified he was certain Camm neither left the gym, nor returned, nor disappeared when he came to call between 8:15 p.m. and 9 p.m. Jolly told jurors Camm was playing when he arrived, but sat out the next game to talk after his game ended about 8:30 p.m.
"And what was Dave doing when he excused himself?" defense counsel Stacy Uliana asked.
"Stretching," said Jolly, "getting ready for the next game."
Jolly said Camm was still in the gym when he left shortly after 9 p.m.
Mark Werncke was another person playing basketball at the church gym that night. Werncke testified that he couldn't remember whether Camm sat out the second or third game, but he too is certain that Camm never left nor disappeared. But Werncke also said he's fairly sure he'd never seen Camm sit out a game before.
Scott Schrank also had some difficulty pinning down Camm's playing time, but told jurors he felt "uncomfortable" when Jeff Lockhart, Camm's cousin, called to say that his account of the ballgames would be "very important" in the murder investigation.
"He (Lockhart) said 'be careful what you say, because it doesn't jibe with the rest of the ballplayers,'" said Levco.
"It kind of bothered me, because I was wondering how he (Lockhart) knew what the rest of them were saying," Schrank responded.
Prosecutors have intimated that family ties offer motivation and opportunity to bolster Camm's alibi.
Since leaving ISP in early May 2000, Camm had worked for Sam Lockhart. Leland Lockhart, another of Camm's uncles, founded Georgetown Community Church and was its pastor when the murders occurred. Cousin Jeff Lockhart organized the basketball games. Uncle Nelson Lockhart sold and oversaw the installation security system that monitored the church gym and its door locks. Jurors appeared to note those ties in some of their questions.
"Is the security system connected to a central command center?" one juror asked Nelson Lockhart.
"It would send a message if the doors were to be opened," Lockhart replied. "And each person with access has his/her own code."
Testimony resumes Thursday morning.
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