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Gateway trial: Jury hears testimony

Oct. 2, 2008
Sheriff's crime scene specialist Gabriele Suboch testifies in the trial of Fred Cooper. She is pointing out were a projectile was found on the bed in the residence of the Andrews' home. / Andrew West/


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5:46 P.M.The News-Press and are covering the murder trial of Fred Cooper, who stands accused of killing a Gateway couple in their home in December, 2005. Watch live video, read updates from the courtroom and check back for photos.

To read previous coverage, go to

4:46 p.m. update

Garber has concluded his cross examination of Suboch.

Most of her testimony regarded more items collected and the results of blood splattered on the walls and floor of the master bedroom of the house.

Most of the tested blood belonged to only Steven Andrews or only Michelle Andrews, but several samples of blood contained a mixture with an unknown person.

Suboch was the last witness for the day. Court will now break for the week.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Monday.

4:13 p.m. update

Kunasek finished questioning Suboch and now Garber has begun cross examining her.

Suboch testified that she was able to lift nearly two dozen fingerprints from the Andrews' house, but none matched Cooper's. Some were insufficient to compare to other fingerprints. Two prints matched those of Daniel Kokora, Michelle Andrews' father.

"None were Mr. Cooper’s prints," Garber said rhetorically. "They belong to some other person."

3:45 p.m. update

Suboch is now testifying about the different items she collected at the scene.

She found a pink rag that had a red substance on it in the bushes behind the Andrews' house.

Suboch also took into evidence a pair of jeans found in the master bedroom of the house.

She described to jurors the different areas of blood found throughout the master bedroom where the bodies were found.

3:25 p.m. update

Suboch said that one of her first actions when getting to the scene around 8:30 a.m. Dec. 27 was getting 2-year-old Lukasz's clothes.

She bagged those and stored them.

She then went into the house and began photographing the scene and testing for fingerprinting on the Andrews' bodies.

She took an impression of parts of the bodies on a type of paper and dusted with powder to test for prints. It was successful, she said.

"I was able to lift a fingerprint from the right neck area of Michelle," she testified."

She stored the information and sent it to the sheriff's latent fingerprint division to compare. But the results were inconclusive, she said.

"She advised me that it was insufficient," Suboch said of the latent fingerprint examiner.

Suboch is continuing to relay her involvement in the investigation to the jury.

3:10 p.m. update

Sheriff's crime scene specialist Gabriele Suboch is on the stand after a 15-minute break.

She is explaining her qualifications for the jury.

2:48 p.m. update

The court will be in recess for about 15 minutes.

2:46 p.m. update

Garber is now questioning Balke about his examination of the Andrews' house.

He testified that Steven Andrews had drops of blood on his back at the scene and the formation of the blood indicated it had dripped down from his neck.

After a brief line of questioning, Garber said he didn't have any more questions for Balke.

Kunasek entered into evidence a photo of Steven Andrews' body as it was found at the scene, which showed his right hand in the form of having held a gun.

Garber then asked Balke about the bloody hand print found on Michelle Andrews' nightgown. Balke said there was no fingerprint found on the nightgown.

"There was nothing that indicated a fingerprint," he said. "It was a fabric. There were lines to it — parallel lines."

2:17 p.m. update

Balke said he used Luminol, a chemical that reacts to indicate the presence of blood, throughout the Andrews' home Dec. 28.

He said he didn't find any blood in the master bedroom other than the visible blood.

Balke said the chemical found blood on the tile floor of the master bathroom that appeared to be streaky, or cleaned up.

2:10 p.m. update

Balke is describing to Kunasek the sheriff's search of the Andrews' home.

He said crime scene technicians searched all trash cans, inside and outside of the house.

He said investigators found a bullet projectile upstairs, but he didn't get into specific details about that.

Despite searching the house for a full day Dec. 27, investigators returned the next day, Dec. 28.

1:47 p.m. update

The right side of the courtroom's gallery is completely full, with TruTV operators to the far side, state attorney's office personnel in the front row and the Andrews' parents in the second row.

Most of the rest of the courtroom is full, mainly with media members typing on laptop computers.

Family of Cooper's are in the second row on the left by the aisle, sitting alone.

Only a handful of public spectators are watching the trial so far. Several attorneys watched opening statements this morning.

Sheriff's crime scene manager Harry Balke is now on the stand.

1:30 p.m. update

Garber is now asking questions of Harding.

He has begun questioning him on medical terms regarding Michelle and Steven Andrews.

Garber also questioned Harding about the position of Steven Andrews' right hand, which was held to his chest with his index finger straight and his thumb curled, as if holding a gun.

Harding confirmed that's how he found Andrews' body.

1:22 p.m. update

Harding is explaining his examination and observation of the dead bodies when he got to the scene.

He said Michelle Andrews' nightgown had a bloody print on it, but he couldn't say whether it was a bare hand or gloved hand.

Harding said Steven Andrews was lying face down, but he turned him over to see that Andrews' right hand was across his chest and in the form of holding a gun. Harding demonstrated it from the stand.

He is now describing how the bodies were transported to the medical examiner's office.

1:08 p.m. update

The state has just called medical examiner's investigator Brett Harding to the stand.

1 p.m. update

Officials are readying to continue the rest of the trial for today.

Family and friends of the victims and Cooper have made their way back into the courtroom.

Attorneys have arrived and the trial should resume soon.

The jury has been brought in and is waiting in the jury room behind a closed door.

12:02 a.m. update

Follmer is off the stand and court will be breaking for lunch.

The trial will resume at 1 p.m.

11:58 a.m. update

Prosecutors just introduced into evidence the 911 call that came into the sheriff's office around 7 a.m. Dec. 27, 2005 from 12221 Eagle Point Circle.

Jurors are now hearing the call.

11:51 a.m. update

Garber quickly questioned Gamez and now sheriff's records custodian Carol Follmer is on the stand.

She was previously a 911 operator and took the emergency call Dec. 27, 2005 from 12221 Eagle Point Circle.

11:43 a.m. update

Gamez said after a safety sweep of the house was complete, paramedics arrived to check the victims for a pulse, which he said was futile.

Both were dead.

"You could clearly see he had expired," Gamez said of Steven Andrews. "He was in a pool of blood. It was obvious there was no pulse."

After a second sweep of the house, more deputies arrived, Gamez testified.

Garber is now cross examining him.

11:38 a.m. update

Gamez testified that as deputies did a safety sweep of the house, he arrived at the master bedroom and saw both Steven and Michelle Andrews, both dead.

Gamez testified he saw Michelle Andrews first and then saw Steven Andrews, who had clearly been shot. Gamez said Andrews looked like he had fallen or been pushed off the bed.

"There was a substantial amount of blood near his head," he testified.

Jurors were just shown a photo of Steven Andrews, face down, with blood around his head.

11:29 a.m. update

Osvaldo Gamez is the state's third witness.

It appears prosecutors are going in chronological order with their witnesses.

Gaydash was the first deputy to arrive at the Andrews' house, Lalor was second and Gamez was also one of the first to arrive at the scene.

11:25 a.m. update

The jury just saw the first gruesome photo in the case — an image of Michelle Andrews' body on the floor of her bedroom, legs spread apart and in a nightgown that covered the top half of her body.

Lalor testified that when deputies re-entered the Andrews' house, he saw the bodies lying in the master bedroom.

Lalor is testifying about other photos investigators took of the inside of the house because he was one of the first deputies to enter.

11:16 a.m. update

Sheriff's detective Christopher Lalor is the state's second witness. He just took the stand.

11:13 a.m. update

Gaydash said that when she arrived at the Andrews' house and spoke with 2-year-old Lukasz, she took the phone from him and told dispatchers she was inside the house and that they could discontinue the call.

Garber asked whether Gaydash preserved the phone for fingerprints, since the state implied in opening arguments that after Cooper killed the couple and left, he came back four hours later and called 911.

"I would say, ‘No, I did not,'" she said of preserving the phone for evidence.

11:10 a.m. update

Garber has spent about 10 minutes asking Gaydash about walkways, stop signs and lighting in the the Gateway community.

He has asked her yet anything more about her discovery of the bodies of Steven and Michelle Andrews.

Gaydash and Garber are standing in front of a blown up aerial photo of Eagle Point Circle and the surrounding areas.

10:47 a.m. update

Gaydash recalled that she arrived at the Andrews' house, assuming that their 2-year-old child had called 911 while they were sleeping.

Lukasz opened the front door and led Gaydash up the stairs. The boy was saying, 'Momma' and pointed upstairs.

"I continued to announce myself under the impression that the parents would announce themselves," she testified. "The little boy was leading me that way."

But at the top of the stairs, Gaydash noticed Michelle Andrews' foot on the floor of the master bedroom.

"At that point, I observed based on my training and experience a female deceased foot," she testified.

She snatched Lukasz and ran downstairs and left the house, calling for backup. More deputies arrived and they re-entered the house, with guns drawn, to see if anyone was still alive in the house.

They only found the bodies of Steven and Michelle Andrews.

"Lots of blood," she said.

10:36 a.m. update

Deputy Gaydash, a school resource officer, was working patrol the morning of Dec. 27 and took the 911 call to 12221 Eagle Point Circle.

"I was in the area," she testified. "I took the call because I was closer."

She said she recognized the street.

"It was the same street I lived on," she said.

Gaydash is testifying about the Gateway community.

10:34 a.m. update

The state's first witness is Deputy Tracie Lodato, the deputy who responded to the Andrews' home Dec. 27, 2005. She was formerly known as Tracie Gaydash.

10:12 a.m. update

Garber finished his opening argument by asking jurors to pay attention to the facts of the case.

He never disputed specific facts Kunasek referred to, but did have some different perspectives on the evidence.

He pointed out that although it's true Cooper cut out the mesh lining of his camouflage jacket and doused the jacket in chemicals, he did it out in the open at work.

Cooper cooperated with detectives, handing over the jacket when they requested it and allowing them to photograph is arms.

Garber ripped into one of the state's key witnesses — Jimmie Lynn Craven, who will testify Cooper visited her four days before the Andrews were found dead to try to get a gate code. But, he said Det. Walter Ryan suggested which photo in a photo lineup was Cooper.

"I ask you to pay very close attention," Garber said. "When you do that, you will see at the close of this case that there is considerable doubt that Mr. Cooper did this."

The court took a 10 minute recess.

9:52 a.m. update

Deputy Public Defender Ken Garber is beginning his opening argument now.

9:50 a.m. update

After Cooper was arrested in January, he asked detectives what evidence they had against him.

Det. Shawn Ramsey told him investigators had recovered DNA evidence from the scene that matched Cooper's.

Cooper then admitted he had met Michelle Andrews before and that they had consensual sex the night before. In Cooper's initial meetings with detectives, he denied ever being to the Gateway community or knowing where the Andrews lived.

But the DNA detectives found connected to Cooper, Kunasek said, wasn't from semen. He also said it was found on Michelle Andrews' nightgown and fingernails.

9:42 a.m. update

Kunasek told jurors that neighbors of the Andrews saw a man in a camouflage jacket walking around the neighborhood late Dec. 26.

One witness saw the man from six to 10 feet away and as he glanced over, the man pulled the hood on his camouflage jacket over his head and walked away.

Cooper's gated community — Village Walk in Bonita Springs – tracked him going into his community at 3:01 a.m. Dec. 27.

And around 7 a.m., another witness saw a man walk into the Gateway community. Another saw a similar man walking away from the community, minutes after the 911 call came into the sheriff's office.

It appears prosecutors believe Cooper killed Steven and Michelle Andrews early Dec. 27, before 3 a.m., and then came back around 7 a.m. to call 911.

The Gateway house showed no signs of forced entry and nothing was stolen.

9:31 a.m. update

Kunasek is taking a chronological approach to his opening statement, starting with the 911 call, the discovery of the bodies and the beginning of the investigation.

He then shifted to the affair between Steven Andrews and Kellie Ballew — Cooper's former girlfriend — setting up what investigators believe is motive for the crime.

Kunasek then told jurors how Ballew called the sheriff's office and told them about her failed relationship with Cooper.

"She told the detective the relationship between her and friend wasn’t going very well," he said. "In fact, she told him it was over."

Detectives then began investigating Cooper and focused in on him as their main suspect.

9:25 a.m. update

Kunasek began his opening statement by setting the scene that sheriff's deputy Tracie Gaydash saw when she arrived at the Andrews' home after receiving a 911 call.

Gaydash opened the front door and followed the Andrews' son, Lukasz, then 2 years old, up the stairs to the second floor. Gaydash thought his parents were sleeping.

"What the deputy discovered that morning was that they were upstairs, but they weren’t sleeping," he said. "They were laying in their own blood — brutally murdered."

9:09 a.m update

Attorneys are arguing whether assistant state attorney Anthony Kunasek can show a calendar from Dec. 2005 and play the 911 call from 12221 Eagle Point Cir.

Reese ruled prosecutors can't play the tape, but they can show an aerial photo of the Gateway neighborhood and the calendar.

The jury should be brought in soon.

8:50 a.m. update

The families of Michelle and Steven Andrews are in the courtroom this morning sitting in the second row with a victim's advocate from the state attorney's office.

Operators from TruTV, formerly CourtTV, are testing their equipment and setting up.

The cable station has a camera set up near the jury box on the right side of the courtroom. Wires, tapes, a soundboard and other video and audio equipment are cluttering the back rows near where the jurors will sit.

Attorneys just showed up, but Lee Circuit Judge Thomas Reese and Cooper haven't yet arrived.

From this morning's editions of The News-Press

After hours of time-consuming questioning and dismissal of 86 candidates, an 8-woman, 4-man jury and two female alternates were sworn in at 5:18 p.m. Thursday to try the case of State of Florida vs. Fred DeWitt Cooper.

Cooper, 30, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed burglary in the December 2005 killings of Steven and Michelle Andrews in their Gateway home. He faces the death penalty, if convicted.

After lopping off 74 prospective jurors in a day and a half, the remaining 36 candidates - 22 women and 14 men - answered a battery of questions Thursday about their personal lives, friends and family, and whether they can follow the law, if selected.

A dozen more of those were excused before the jury was seated. They will begin listening to opening arguments at 9 this morning in the courtroom of Judge Thomas Reese.

For several hours Thursday, it appeared attorneys would have difficulty finding 14 people they could agree on to serve.

The jury candidates were peppered with an array of questions on Thursday.

Seventeen were excused by Reese when he asked if they could dedicate at least two weeks to the trial, and he accepted their explanation it would create a hardship for them.

Another six were dismissed because of pretrial publicity or personal opinions about the death penalty.

Prosecutors repeatedly asked whether prospective jurors could be fair to both sides, whether they believed television crime shows are how real law enforcement works and whether they will use common sense when trying to determine reasonable doubt.

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