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.
Tuesday Afternoon Testimony
Testimony about DNA evidence dominated much of the afternoon of Day 7 of the trial.
Justin Parker, a trace evidence analyst with the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified he was asked to look at several pieces of evidence including a sexual assault evidence kit, a seat belt from the victim’s car, hair samples from the victim’s vehicle, hair samples from Loper’s Pilates studio, hair samples from the defendant’s vehicle, clothes from defendant Black, hair samples from Loper, Loper’s clothing and hair samples found on the victim’s clothing. Parker testified a hair sample found in the side door of Loper’s vehicle is “microscopically similar” to a sample of Black’s hair. He could not say how long the hair had been in the vehicle.
He also told the jury while he was given hair samples from Loper’s boyfriend Jayson Hayes, he did not compare those samples to the evidence.
Parker also was responsible for testing the clump of hair found in Black’s car at the time of his apprehension at the Grand Canyon. Parker testified his conclusion was that the hair found was “microscopically similar” to Loper’s “known head hair.” While the hair sample contained roots, Parker said he could not tell if they had been forcibly removed. However, in his report, he had written it appeared the hair had been “naturally shed” and that there was no blood found on the hair.
Parker said another six hairs found on Loper’s short sleeved shirt were not similar to samples from Black, nor were three other hairs found on Loper’s long sleeve shirt. However, most of the hairs found were similar to samples from Loper.
DPS forensic DNA analyst analyst Trisha Kacer was also on the witness stand Tuesday afternoon. Kacer said she found no evidence of semen or sperm on or in the victim’s body when analyzing her rape kit. She said she was also asked to attempt to extract DNA evidence from items like the victim’s known blood specimen, a known blood specimen from Black, Loper’s fingernail clippings as well as swabs from Loper’s vehicle and one of the unfired 9mm rounds found at one of the crime scenes.
Kacer said a swab from the gearshift of Loper’s vehicle showed DNA from Black, Loper and an unknown person. There is no way to date when any of the DNA was transferred into the car. The vehicle’s armrest had DNA from Loper and another male – neither Black, nor boyfriend Hayes. A swab from the driveway at Gleneagles Country Club showed a mixture of Loper’s DNA and an unknown individual, though Loper’s DNA was the majority of material found. There was not enough of a sample from the unknown person to analyze.
Black was also excluded as a contributor of a partial DNA profile found under Loper’s right fingernail. The SUV’s drivers’ side seat belt release button also contained DNA samples from Loper and an unknown individual. Kacer also analyzed stains on a polo jacket belonging to Black, which showed to be his blood. When asked, she testified the stains would be consistent with Black cutting his wrists while wearing the jacket.
Kacer said she was unable to find a DNA profile from swabs of the unfired 9mm rounds of ammunition.
Kacer later received additional evidence, including swabs from the back headrest of Loper’s vehicle. She testified the headrest showed DNA profiles identified to Black, Hayes and the victim, Loper. A swab from the inside passenger window tested positive for blood and DNA from Loper.
Earlier in the trial, the state showed a photograph of the window, which they claim showed where the victim’s head could have been resting and bleeding. Kacer also tested Loper’s clothes. The pants Loper was wearing when she died had no DNA evidence, and her shirt bore a DNA profile of an unknown male.
Black and Hayes were excluded from that profile.
During cross-examination, the defense made a point of asking how the last person to drive a vehicle could possibly leave DNA evidence on a gearshift and not a steering wheel, considering both are used to drive a car.
Black’s DNA was not found on Loper’s steering wheel.
Defense attorneys also asked if an individual was wearing gloves, if it would be “very unlikely to leave your DNA on the gearshift”. The witness testified that assertion would be correct.
The defense also made a point of saying if a person had been carrying Loper’s body, if their DNA might be easily transferred to the shirt she was wearing at the time of her death. Again, Loper’s shirt bore the DNA profile of an unidentified male.
The state argued that DNA could have being transferred from a client or even from doing laundry.
Tuesday Morning Testimony
The state began Tuesday morning in the Terrance Black capital murder trial by calling Dr. Burlyn Nelon, a physician, whose office is in Burleson. Nelon testified he met with pharmaceutical representative Jayson Hayes, Susan Loper’s boyfriend at the time of her death, around 8 a.m. April 19, 2011, the day Loper went missing.
The meeting happened in Burleson, close to 60 miles from where Loper was last seen. The doctor said he must provide a signature when a pharmaceutical representative delivers samples. Records from Hayes company show a signature and time stamp from the 8 a.m. hour. Nelon testified that Hayes seemed normal during their meeting. When questioned by the state, he told the jury that Hayes was neither bloody nor sweaty during the encounter.
Hayes also testified on Tuesday morning. He told the jury he and Loper were exclusively dating on the date of her murder. He said Loper had been planning to move her studio from Gleneagles Country Club to another location in the Willow Bend area of Plano. Hayes told the jury he had done some preparation work for the move with Loper from the Gleneagles location, including packing the week before her death.
A fingerprint belonging to Hayes was found by police on a screen inside Loper’s studio during the investigation after her disappearance.
Hayes testified he had been making working calls to physicians, as was his normal work routine, when he was called by Plano Detective Brian Pfahning, informing him that Loper was missing.
“I thought someone was pulling a joke on me,” Hayes said. “I asked if this was real.”
While he was told not to go to Loper’s studio by police, Hayes said he went anyway.
“I couldn’t believe she was missing,” he testified. “I want to see for myself – just to see.”
The prosecution highlighted this was the only instance of Hayes not following police direction or cooperating in the investigation. After he saw the police tape at the scene, Hayes said he left after about “two minutes,” testifying that he then drove to Loper’s residence to meet up with her family and friends.
Hayes admitted he has some experience with guns, testifying that he owns a shotgun and a handgun, though he has never owned a 9mm handgun. Investigators have testified live rounds of ammunition from a 9mm handgun were found at both crime scenes. Hayes told the jury he could not recall if police had ever asked him if he owned a gun.
Hayes also said police never asked to examine his phone, did no forensic examination of his laptop, never searched his vehicle, nor did anyone examine his physical person for injuries. The defense has argued throughout the trial that investigators did not diligently look at other suspects other than Black.
Hayes testified he and Loper had been exclusively dating since February 2010, though they had broken up at least once during that period. He agreed one breakup was involving a disagreement with Loper over whether or not Hayes “liked” Loper’s young son Jake.
Hayes said he volunteered hair and DNA samples to police during the investigation, though those samples were not taken until May 9, 2011. Hayes testified he had told police to investigate Black as a suspect in Loper’s death.
The jury is now hearing about DNA samples and analysis.