FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The third day of the trial of a man accused of killing his mother-in-law more than two years ago began with his attorney asking for the case to be dismissed.
Freddie Alcantar Jr. is on trial in Allen Superior Court, accused of murder in the August 2013 death of 59-year-old Debra Jones, his mother-in-law.
On Tuesday, the prosecution called a former inmate who spent a brief time in jail with Alcantar to the stand. That man told the jury that while the two were in lock-up together, Alcantar asked him about his attorney. When the man told Alcantar his attorney was good but very straightforward and would need him to be honest about his charge and crime, he said Alcantar admitted to fatally stabbing Jones and said he was worried he left a shoe print behind.
On Wednesday, then, Alcantar’s attorney, Michelle Kraus, asked Judge John Surbeck to dismiss the case due to the way that man’s interview was recorded. While the inmate’s conversation with detectives was recorded, Kraus did not learn that until 6:45 p.m. Tuesday night, the court learned.
“It is not allowing me to do what I do best, which is defend him,” Kraus said.
Surbeck called out the prosecution for negligence, saying the prosecutors failed to research their own case, but the judge said it wasn’t intentional or deceitful. He denied Kraus’s motion to dismiss.
“This is a watershed moment for this county in criminal cases in terms of discovery because this has gotten real sloppy,” Surbeck said. “This is the beginning, not the end of some significant issues of discovery in this county.”
Surbeck then asked if Kraus wanted a day to prepare, but she declined, saying, “Quite frankly, I think the case is going well for us, and I don’t want to stop the train rolling at this point.”
Judge put the trial on recess until 10:30 a.m.
Wednesday Morning Testimonies
When the trial resumed Wednesday morning, several people testified before lunch including the pathologist who performed Deb Jones’ autopsy. She walked the jury through a handful of pictures of the procedure, noting injuries to her head, neck, and hands. The doctor said she likely died within minutes because of such significant blood loss. The pathologist also talked about the cuts to Freddie’s hands. She said in her medical opinion, those likely came from a sharp object and not a blunt one like the dog chains Freddie said they came from.
A retired forensic scientist who worked on the case also testified. He told the jury he found no fingerprints of value from the door frame of Jones’ house or the steak knife the neighbor found. He also mentioned that Freddie’s work boots police found in his closet several days after the homicide did not match the shoe print found under Jones’ body.
Wednesday Afternoon Testimonies
The afternoon focused mostly on DNA evidence, one of the pieces that originally got Alcantar arrested. The forensic scientist who tested for DNA in the case took the stand for more than an hour to meticulously go through each sample. She walked the jury through more than a dozen results, focusing on three samples in particular. The swabs from the kitchen counter, bathroom door frame, and office light switch all tested positive for DNA from both Deb Jones and Freddie Alcantar.
The forensic scientist detailed how extensive the testing process is for DNA evidence. She walked the jury through each complicated step and talked about testing the evidence twice. The first time she tested it, she was only able to determine one set or no sets of DNA on each of the samples. Months later, the Indiana State Police lab where she worked adopted another policy and formula. That specific formula is better able to determine if there are two sets or profiles of DNA in a sample. The two sets or profiles are referred to as major and minor profiles. During the first round of testing, the forensic scientist determined the following:
- Kitchen counter: DNA found for Freddie Alcantar as the major profile
- Bathroom door frame: DNA found for Deb Jones as the major profile
- Office light switch: DNA found for Deb Jones as the major profile
The forensic scientist said at that time, the three samples also had other DNA evidence on them from another person, but there wasn’t enough information to conclude who that DNA may belong to given the formulas available.
Then, when the new formula and policies became available, the forensic scientist went back and retested those three samples and determined the following:
- Kitchen counter: DNA found for Freddie Alcantar as the major profile, DNA found for Deb Jones as the minor profile
- Bathroom door frame: DNA found for Deb Jones as the major profile, DNA found for Freddie Alcantar as the minor profile
- Office light switch: DNA found for Deb Jones as the major profile, DNA found for Freddie Alcantar as the minor profile
The forensic scientist said the chances of the DNA being from other people is incredibly rare. She even named specific probabilities for each sample:
- Kitchen counter: DNA found for Freddie Alcantar- 1 in 1 trillion individuals, DNA found for Deb Jones- 1 in 8 trillion individuals
- Bathroom door frame: DNA found for Deb Jones- 1 in 8 trillion individuals, DNA found for Freddie Alcantar- 1 in 1.9 billion individuals
- Office light switch: DNA found for Deb Jones- 1 in 8 trillion individuals, DNA found for Freddie Alcantar- 1in 43 million individuals
During the cross-examination, the defense asked the forensic scientist about the controversial nature of DNA testing and mixture interpretation in the scientific community. The forensic scientist agreed that it is a very contentious and hot topic with lots of different opinions. She also mentioned how more than a hundred forensic labs across the country use similar policies and methods to what is used in the Indiana State Police lab in Fort Wayne.
The forensic scientist also tested all of the samples for any possible DNA from Erika Alcantar and found no matches.
Former Inmate Takes the Stand Again
The former inmate who testified Tuesday that Alcantar admitting killing Deb Jones to him took the stand again Wednesday afternoon. After Wednesday morning’s debate over his testimony and the discrepancies there, the defense grilled him. On Tuesday, the man testified that he didn’t know he would receive any sort of benefit from telling the police what Alcantar told him. However, his inmate request form clearly showed that he asked for his sentence to be dismissed as a result of sharing that information with police. The defense asked him about this difference Wednesday, saying:
“An oath for most people means you’re going to tell the truth. You lied when you testified, didn’t you?”
The man responded saying he didn’t believe he was lying and didn’t realize he should’ve mentioned that. To which, the defense responded by saying:
“Truth is a grey area for you, isn’t it?”
On Tuesday, the man also testified that he hadn’t read any news report or anything about the case before talking to police. However, an interview recording has him saying the following:
“Just last night, I read in the newspaper that he pled not-guilty.”
The defense passed out copies of a News-Sentinel article from March 6, 2014 about the case. Wednesday morning, the defense mentioned that it would be highly likely the former inmate could have just read the article and then lied about what Alcantar told him based on what he read about the case. However, that article only mentioned information from the probable cause. It did not mention anything about a Boost Mobile phone, cuts on Alcantar’s hands, dog chains, the distance between the Alcantar’s house and Jones’ house, or a Speedway gas station. Those were several of the things that the former inmate was able to tell police during his conversation about what Alcantar hold told him.
Lead Detective Testimony
The lead detective in the case testified Wednesday afternoon, showing the video recording of one of his interviews with Freddie Alcantar. The video was taken on the day Deb Jones’ body was discovered on August 30, 2013. It shows the detective immediately questioning Alcantar about the cuts on his hands. In the video, Alcantar tells the detective they are from dog chains and leashes he has at his house for his three beagles.
The detective also mentioned how both Erika and Freddie Alcantar failed to mention that Freddie left in the middle of the night to buy cigarettes. Erika didn’t tell him that until a few months later. Freddie told him he went to bed around 11 p.m. the night before finding Deb Jones’ body and woke up around 5 a.m.
The other piece of his testimony focused on the black work boots that are a part of the evidence in this case. Investigators found them in the Alcantar’s closet, and they were wet. However, everything else in the closet was dry. When the detective asked Alcantar about why they could be wet, he told him it was probably from the rain in the lawn. The detective then mentioned how it hadn’t rained for about a month and a half before the boots were found.
Alcantar also told the detective he went to the front door, bedroom, and bathroom of Deb Jones’ house, but he never said anything about going to the kitchen where his DNA was found.
The prosecution rested its case at the end of day three of the trial The fourth day starts Thursday at 12:00 p.m. Judge Surbeck expects closing arguments to start Friday morning.