Prosecution witnesses in the capital murder trial of Da Ryan Simms on Friday discussed evidence discovered in the 2014 death of Jerrod Stanford, but could not directly link any of it to Simms except for a palm print found in Stanford’s bathroom.
When the trial started Tuesday, a defense attorney told jurors that none of the physical evidence could show that Simms killed 33-year-old Stanford. A prosecutor said during opening statements that Simms shot and killed Stanford and returned a few days later to steal items from Stanford’s house.
Simms would automatically be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted.
Austin police officer Branden Kunkel testified Friday that when he received a call about shots fired and vehicles racing Sept. 14, 2014, he went to the scene and ended up arresting Simms, who had marijuana in his pockets. Simms had been riding in the back seat of a car, and Kendall Ellis and another man were in the front seat, Kunkel said.
Ellis also has been charged with capital murder in Stanford’s death and has not yet faced trial.
Another Austin police officer who arrived at the scene, Joshua Muchnikoff, testified Friday that a .40-caliber handgun was found on the back floorboard of the vehicle that Simms was in and a box of .380 ammunition was found in the center car’s console. Muchnikoff said he never saw Simms with the gun.
A prosecutor has said a .40-caliber handgun was stolen from Stanford and the bullet that killed him was .380-caliber.
No fingerprints were found on the handgun, the box of ammunition or the bullets inside the box, said Jennifer Smith, a Williamson County sheriff’s crime scene specialist who also testified Friday. She said that shoe prints found in Stanford’s house matched the shoe print made by a Jordan Retro 11 tennis shoe.
“You have never been able to trace back the shoe prints found to any shoes belonging to Simms?” defense lawyer Robert McCabe asked. “The correct shoes were never recovered,” Smith said.
Investigators did find Simms’ left hand print on a bathroom ledge in Stanford’s bathroom but could not determine when it had been placed there, Smith said.
Earlier Friday, prosecutors played for jurors a tape of a woman initially charged in Stanford’s death talking to investigators after her arrest. Lindsey Hanks, who has testified she was a prostitute who spent time with Stanford at his house, said in the September 2014 interview that she was glad Stanford was dead and that he was the type of person who treated women like rag dolls.
After the tape was played, defense lawyer Jon Evans asked Hanks if she remembered saying what she had said. Hanks said she did not remember because she was high on 25 Xanax she had taken before the interview.
“Do you recall saying he (Stanford) must have pissed off the wrong people or he must have killed himself?” Evans asked, after that portion of the tape was played in court.
“I don’t remember,” Hanks said.
Another tape was played Friday of a call Hanks made to her mother while in jail in November 2014 after Hanks was charged with capital murder. “I never meant to do this,” Hanks said during the phone call. She also said, “I pray I get out of this.”
Prosecutor Dee McWilliams asked Hanks if she was trying to “get out of this?” “No, I’m not,” she said.
Hanks’ charge was reduced to aggravated robbery in a plea agreement in which she agreed to testify against Simms and Ellis. She faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
Hanks previously testified that Simms and Ellis came to Stanford’s house with her and chased Stanford into his bathroom with guns. She said she heard two gunshots and then found Stanford dead on his bathroom floor.