The last witness for the prosecution to testify Thursday afternoon at the trial of Bret Michael Wheeler was Cpl. William Murray, who was a detective with the Major Crimes Unit of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office on Aug. 8 2016, when he responded to the Northern District Office in Hampstead to interview Wheeler.
Wheeler, who is on trial for murder, was placed in the interview room at 7:30 p.m. and at approximately 10:05 p.m., according to a video recording of Wheeler's time in the room that was shown to the jury, Murray began to question him.
"What can you tell me about what happened tonight?" he said. "We both know why you're here."
Thursday was the fourth day of proceedings in Wheeler's trial, and the prosecution continued to call witnesses before the jury and Judge Barry Hughes.
Wheeler, formerly of the 2000 block of Dennings Road, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree assault and accessory after first-degree murder, according to electronic court records.
He is charged as a co-conspirator to Robert Theodore Bosley, convicted in April of murdering Kandi Gerber, Wheeler's fiancee, on Aug. 8, 2016.
As depicted in the interview room video, Wheeler began to tell his version of the events surrounding the murder to Murray.
He recounted how Bosley was angry at Gerber because Bosley suspected that she had called the Carroll County Detention Center to tell them that Bosley was not keeping his contract. Wheeler didn't want to get involved, he said, because he didn't want to stir up trouble with Bosley.
"Okay, I'm gonna agree with you. We live in your house," he told Murray of his thought process.
He said he let Bosley confront Gerber because he thought Bosley was going to tell her to pack her things and leave. He said he "begged" Bosley to let him take a child who lived on the property away so the child would not witness the fight. Two other residents of the house took the child to a nearby convenience store and Bosley told him to follow, Wheeler said.
Wheeler came back early, separate from the group to make sure Gerber and Bosley were not physically fighting, he said, and immediately knew something was wrong because the dogs were out of the house. Then Bosely came up from the basement where Gerber and Wheeler lived, very out of breath.
"He told me, 'It's done,' " Wheeler said.
In the basement, Wheeler found Gerber face-down on the floor and said he heard a sound like "gurgling."
Murray asked him to back up and recount parts of the story. After seeing Gerber, Wheeler added, "I knew she was dead right then. She didn't have any movement. I couldn't see her breathing."
Bosley then entered behind him with a razor blade and told Wheeler not to touch Gerber and words to the effect of, "We're going to get this figured out," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said he couldn't think and couldn't breath right. He did not know what to do or whether to call 911, he said.
The defense then paused the video of the interview, to be continued Friday because it was the end of the business day for the Circuit Court of Carroll County.
Earlier on Thursday, Kelly Timms, a forensic services technician with the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, was the first to testify, recalling how on Aug. 8, 2016, she responded to the intersection of Muller Road and Old Washington Road where Gerber's body was found partially hidden in brush and weeds on top of plastic bags of garbage.
She took photos at the scene, many of which were shown to the jury as evidence by Deputy State's Attorney Edward Coyne during direct questioning.
These included photographs of Gerber's body. A large amount of probable blood covered her skin and clothes and there was a significant laceration on the underside of her neck. Timms observed blue fibers caught on Gerber's fingers.
Wheeler, seated between his defense attorneys, appeared distressed at the sight of the victim's body.
Further up Muller Road, investigators located a trash can containing a blue tarp torn into two pieces and stained with probable blood.
"It was very wet and saturated, and it was very ragged. It was well-used." Timms said.
The fibers on Gerber's hands were consistent with the fibers of the tarp, Timms later told Wheeler's attorney, Matthew Williamson, during cross-examination.
After a search warrant was issued for a home in the 700 block of S. Springdale Road where Wheeler and Bosley allegedly attempted to clean themselves, Timms responded there to collect evidence from the bathroom. From the shower, she collected swabs of possible blood.
She also collected evidence from Wheeler's yellow Nissan pickup truck, which was parked outside the residence and secured. In the interior of the truck, she observed possible blood on the seats, steering wheel and driver's inside door-handle. A pair of boots were left on the floor of the front passenger seat, as well as ammunition. Behind the seats, investigators found Gerber's purse which contained her identification. No blood was observed on or inside the purse.
In the bed of the truck, Timms observed debris, blue fibers and possible blood. She also found a white trash bag containing clothing and empty beer cans. The clothing, a white tank top, a black tank top, a pair of shorts and a pair of dark-colored tennis shoes all showed stains of possible blood.
During cross examination, Williamson, asked Timms about tire tracks that were recorded in the gravel pull-off near the intersection where the body was dumped. Timms said investigators believed the tracks to have been made by Wheeler's pickup truck after measuring the tracks and later the truck.
Forensic Scientist Advanced at Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division Teri Zerbe testified as an expert witness. She discusses samples collected by crime scene technicians that were sent to her lab. She testified that the possible blood discovered on Wheeler's boxers, the blue tarp, Gerber's fingernails, the basement of 2000 Dennings Road and the shower of South Springdale Road were all confirmed to be blood.
The DNA collected from the boxers and the tarp matched Gerber's beyond a reasonable doubt. No conclusions could be made from the shower sample. Under Gerber's fingernails, DNA testing returned partial profiles of two male contributors, but not enough that identification could be made.
The blade found in the burn pit and suspected to be the murder weapon was also tested, but it did not test for either blood or DNA, likely because of rusting and exposure to heat, Zerbe said.
Afternoon witness Bradley Merrell has employed both Bret Wheeler and Robert Bosley off and on to work home improvement jobs. He had known Wheeler for about five years on Aug. 8, 2016, when he met up with Wheeler and Bosley at a residence in the 700 block of South Springdale Road, he told the jury.
Bosley had been calling Merrell throughout the day using Wheeler's phone and asking him to come to 2000 Dennings Road and help evict Gerber. During cross-examination by Eric Offutt, one of Wheeler's defense attorneys, Merrell said the only reason he would have gone was because he feared Bosley would have beaten or harmed Gerber.
When Merrell arrived after work Bosley and Wheeler weren't there. Resident Jeffrey Turco told him he had to leave; there was blood in the basement and Turco's girlfriend Lindsay Ulsch was on the phone with 911.
Merrell left and called Wheeler's phone again. Bosley answered and told him to come to his ex-mother-in-law's house on South Springdale.
"I had my thoughts, but nothing this weird," Merrell said.
He met the two at a nearby liquor store and they drove over together. Bosley, he said, walked up to the house to speak to his ex-mother-in-law. Merrell said Wheeler then told him that Bosley had killed Gerber and they had dropped her off on the side of the road.
"He was beside his self — he wasn't normal," Merrell said.
Then Bosley returned and said to Wheeler, "I told you to get in the house, take your clothes off and take a shower," Merrell said. Wheeler complied.
During their interaction, Merrell noticed a box of ammunition in Wheeler's pickup truck, and he was afraid that Bosley may have had a gun. As he spoke to Bosley, he began to maneuver toward his truck and get in, staying cautious. Bosley asked if Merrell would take his and Wheeler's clothes but Merrell refused.
He then drove away and immediately called 911. His fear did not go away for several weeks, he said during cross-examination.
"I was glad to have my weapons, I was glad to have my dogs, I was glad to have anything," he said.