Police evidence files missing in 1975 murders
Reports documenting how and when evidence was handled at the Grand Junction Police Department’s property room in 1975 remain missing, according to testimony Monday in the double-murder trial of 65-year-old Jerry Nemnich.
Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle used a series of witnesses Monday afternoon to illustrate how some of the evidence in the murders of Linda Benson and Kelley Ketchum were moved, despite the lack of documentation.
Ron Smith, the lieutenant in charge of investigations at the police department in 1975, testified he was “absolutely sure” that a collection of evidence items sent out for forensic testing at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in Denver was safely returned, in their entirety, to the police department’s property room in late November 1975.
Testimony elicited by prosecutors Monday did not specify the times frames covered in the missing property reports.
Smith told the jury he saw an evidence box in the Benson-Ketchum case in the police department’s property room after Nov. 27, 1975, which was the day former CBI agent Nelson Jennett said he had returned the box to 625 Ute Ave., at the time home of both the Grand Junction Police Department and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.
Included in the box were items now critical to the prosecution’s case against Nemnich — among them a blood sample removed from Linda Benson’s chest, which reportedly matched Nemnich’s DNA profile.
The bodies of Benson, 24, and her daughter, Kelley Ketchum, 5, were discovered July 25, 1975, both repeatedly stabbed in the family’s Grand Junction apartment.
Jennett, who testified as an expert in hair and fiber analysis, told jurors he recovered a hair fragment from Kelley Ketchum’s body bag, which later was found to be inconsistent with hair from her mother or stepfather, Steve Benson.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, introduced blood samples recovered from at least 13 locations at the Benson apartment in 1975. They have yet to present testimony tying the blood to anyone, including samples taken from a cereal box on the apartment’s kitchen counter, an ashtray in the living room, small specks from the master bedroom and bathroom walls and a bloody towel in the bathroom found lying at the feet of slain Ketchum.
Tuttle told the jury during opening statements they can expect testimony that Nemnich’s DNA profile was matched to blood found in five separate locations in the apartment, in addition to three partial matches.