Terrance Black Trial: Day 5

Photos of Loper's body shown to jury

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Jurors in Terrance Black's capital murder trial saw the first graphic images of Susan Loper's body. Black is accused of killing Loper in April 2011. (Published Friday, Aug 24, 2012)

    Testimony continued in the murder trial of a North Texas man accused of killing his former girlfriend in spring 2011.

    The following is a log of testimony from Day 5 of Terrance Black's murder trial.

    Black has been charged with killing fitness instructor Susan Loper on April 19, 2011. Her body was found April 20, 2011, near a treeline off John Hickman Parkway.

    Previous trial coverage: Thursday | Wednesday | Tuesday

    Friday Afternoon Testimony

    The afternoon portion of day five continued with the state calling Donald Houser, an employee of Cabela's in Fort Worth. In 2010, he sold firearms for the outdoors sporting company.

    He testified that Terrance Black bought a 9mm gun and ammunition from his counter in Fort Worth on June 21, 2010.

    Police never found a gun at Black's home during a search, but live rounds of 9 mm ammunition were found at the crime scene at Gleneagles Country Club and in the Frisco field where Loper's body was found.

    Black's defense attorneys argued that buying a gun from Cabela's indicates their client had nothing to hide and that buying ammunition is a routine purchase for many people.

    The following state's witness, Luke Grant, a Plano police detective, testified that the brand of ammunition purchased at Cabela's was the same brand that investigators found at both crime scenes.

    The detective demonstrated for the jury how a firearm may eject a live round without discharging the gun, if someone pulls the trigger while the safety mechanism is still on.

    Another firearm expert witness from the Plano Police Department testified that the rounds found at both crime scenes had been chambered in the same gun.

    Jocelyn Humphreys, a friend and former neighbor of Black, testified late in the day. She said she contacted Black via text message when she heard about Loper's death from another neighbor.

    Text messages from Black's phone that were read in court on Thursday confirmed her testimony.

    Humphreys testified that Black responded to her text, saying he had been out of town since earlier in the week and asked what had happened to Loper.

    Humphreys said she and Black had seen each other the weekend before Loper died.

    When she contacted him after hearing the news about Loper, Black told her he was in El Paso because he just "needed to get out of town for a bit."

    Humphreys said she later spoke to Black that day by telephone, although it was a brief conversation. She said he seemed upset about Loper's death.

    Humphreys said Black was a "helpful, nice" guy who knew her children and gave her advice about her yard.

    She also said she had also set him up on a date with one of her girlfriends.

    Friday Morning Testimony

    On day five, the jury saw the first graphic images of Loper's body, which was found in a field near the Dallas North Tollway in Frisco.

    Black watched the slide show images in their entirety, though many of the jury members had a hard time keeping their eyes on the photos.

    According to Robert Laughon, a field agent with the Collin County Medical Examiner's office, the "backside of [Loper's] skull was eggshell" and mostly bashed in, saying, "she had multiple defects to her head." The body was found mostly nude, with one shoe off and another shoe found nearby. Investigators found Loper's pants and underwear pulled down and her shirt pulled up over her head.

    When prompted by the prosecutor, Laughon testified they found no immediate evidence of sexual assault. He said it "appears" she was struck about the face and head, but did not find any weapon on scene.

    The jury also heard testimony earlier in the morning from FBI Special Agent Amy Avila, who is based in Arizona and responded to the scene at the Grand Canyon National Park where Black jumped from a ledge. Avila was part of the team that searched Black's Escalade, which was found at the park. She told the jury there were "red stains" the car that "looked like blood." A speaker cover and part of a seat belt in the car bore similar stains and were removed for testing. Investigators also retrieved a jacket with a "reddish stain" that "could be blood". The jacket was introduced into evidence in court on Friday morning, where the prosecution showed the jury the stains, mentioning a portion of the jacket's left sleeve had been removed.

    When he was apprehended at the Grand Canyon, Black appeared to have "clean" cuts on his wrists that looked "self-inflicted", according to earlier testimony.

    Agent Avila testified she also found a clump of hair on the SUV's console, telling the jury that was unusual. "I've never, ever found a clump of hair in the vehicle I searched," the agent said. She showed a photo, describing the hair to the jury as "dark brown" and "clumped".

    When cross-examined by the defense, the agent told the jury no blood evidence had been found on hair. The defense argued that hair could theoretically be hair cleaned from a hairbrush, something the agent agreed to, in theory. No hairbrush was found by investigators in Black's car.

    Agents also testified to other evidence in the car, including a camouflage-printed knife and a small pocket knife, along with a pair of black gloves.

    Agents also found another suicide note in the Escalade's center console. It read, in part, "Dear family, sorry I failed you all and caused you so much pain. My debts are too high ... I got old too fast ... Please pray God will accept my soul into heaven. Love, Rance."

    Two computers, an iPhone and several thumb drives were retrieved from the car.

    Under defense questioning, FBI agents admitted there appeared to be no evidence the vehicle had been extensively cleaned or bleached before they began their investigation.

    The jury also heard from the Plano police officer who discovered Loper's car parked at a Plano apartment complex.

    Update: 12:55 p.m. Friday

    When photos showed the jury the full, nude and badly injured body of Loper, Black was seen wiping his eyes with a tissue and looking down and away from the projection screen in the courtroom.

    Dr. Sheila Spotswood, the Collin County medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Loper's body,  told the jury Loper's body came into her office on April 20, 2011, shortly after the body was found.

    Her initial description of the body said it showed "blood, dirt, grass, and a lot of injuries".

    Spotswood showed the jury drawings documenting the injuries to the victim.

    She described, and later showed the jury, using a graphic image of Loper's face post-mortem, the black eye and bruising around Loper's left eye, hemorrhaging around the left eye, as well as lacerations, scraping and abrasions to Loper's jawline.

    Another photo, a right profile sketch, showed six lacerations on Loper's head, some two inches long. Spotswood testified some of those lacerations were deep, going all the way to the bone.

    The prosecution pointed out the right side of a person's head is the side closest to a car's window, when one is seated in the front passenger's seat.

    Earlier in testimony, evidence showed a blood stain on the passenger's side window of Loper's SUV.

    When Spotswood showed the jury a sketch of the injuries to the back of Loper's head, she testified there were at least seven lacerations, which the largest split down to the bone.

    The medical examiner also found bone fragments, and testified the large laceration is the "result of several large blows."

    The medical examiner said those wounds account for a minimum of seven blows, though she suspects there were many more than that.

    When assistant district attorney John Schomburger asked if it appeared "someone was striking [Loper's] head with a large object," Spotswood answered, "Yes".

    Photos also showed abrasions and scraping on Loper's neck and jawline. The body showed some other bruising below the neckline, as well as some bruising on Loper's knees and legs. On Loper's left land, her index finger was fractured and the fingernail was nearly knocked off her ring finger.

    When Schomburger asked Spotswood if those wounds could have been defensive, the medical examiner said, "Yes".

    While it is unknown with what object Loper was struck, when prompted by the assistant district attorney, the medical examiner agreed that this was "a terrible, savage beating."