Medical examiner testifies to details of Doolittle murder
By Amber McIver-Traywick
Video of the initial interview investigators had with Tanner Flores, 19, after taking him into custody in June 2016, was shown in the courtroom Thursday as the murder trial continued at the Larimer County Justice Center. Flores is being charged with two counts of first degree murder and kidnapping charges for the June 2016 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend Ashley Doolittle, 18.
Mesa County Sheriff’s Office investigator Danny Norris took the stand to testify about his interview with Flores as clips from the videoed interview were show.
In the video interview, Flores initially stated Doolittle grabbed the .22 caliber revolver from the back of his truck and as he tried to take it from her she accidentally shot herself in the head. Flores at the time then stated Doolittle was, “freaking out and twitching” so he shot her again stating, “I wanted to end it.” When Norris asked why he didn’t call 911 or attempt to aide Doolittle he said he didn’t know what to do. Norris asked if it was wrong to have shot her to which Flores said, “There could have been a chance of her living.”
Later Norris questioned why Flores drove almost 5 hours away with Doolittle’s body still in the front seat of his truck; Flores had covered Doolittle’s body with a blanket, even stopping at one point to get gas, on his way to Collbran, Colo. near Grand Junction to the home of his deceased great-grandfather, Flores replied, “I was just trying to clear my head and figure out what to do.”
Norris asked what he did once he arrived at the home, Flores responded that he took Doolittle’s body inside and attempted to clean her body of the blood, removing her clothing, washing it, and putting it back on her body as well as taking a rag and cleaning her face and torso. Afterwards he said he watched TV.
Larimer County Sheriff’s Office investigator Drew Weber, who also questioned Flores the day he was taken in to custody, discussed at length the location Flores told them the shooting had taken place near Lon Hagler Reservoir in Loveland, Colo., as well as an interaction Doolittle and Flores had at the Sundance Steakhouse and Saloon the Sunday before the murder that ended with Flores crying outside the establishment.
Investigator Dan Gilliam, also with the Larimer County Sheriffs Office, presented his testimony as he performed an analysis on the alleged weapon used in the murder. Gilliam reiterated that to fire the weapon the hammer had to be pulled back in order for it to be cocked and ready to fire. Doolittle was shot three times. The bullets used in the .22 caliber pistol were manufactured with a copper wash, which, according to Gilliam, makes being able to see the stria on the bullets used to identify the weapon the bullet was discharged from difficult to see. Because of this he was unable to say definitively that the weapon was used but also had no proof that it wasn’t.
The medical examiner on the case, Dr. Michael Burson, also testified Thursday that upon the completion of the autopsy performed on Doolittle it was confirmed that three bullets had been fired at close range leading to her death. Burson stated that two of the shots were not fatal but the third would have killed Doolittle in a matter of minutes, but would not have been instantaneous.
The defense objected to Burson stating a sequence that the shots were fired as that could not be confirmed. While the jury was out of the courtroom the prosecution argued that with the statements Flores made about Doolittle’s physical reactions after being shot, along with Burson’s observations, the order could be inferred. Judge Greg Lammons ruled in the defense’s favor and no sequence was given to the jury.
Burson explained in great detail that one bullet had entered the left side of Doolittle’s head below her ear which did not penetrate her skull but followed, “the path of least resistence” around her face lodging in her sinus cavity. The second entered the back of her head. Brunson stated he couldn’t explain why the second bullet hadn’t penetrated her skull. The third bullet did penetrate the skull and traveled through both hemispheres of the brain.
Jodie Callen with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation testified explaining the DNA evidence that was collected from several locations, including the inside of Flores’ truck, was confirmed to belong to Doolittle.
Flores’ grandmother, Suzanne White, did make it back to the court Thursday after a health emergency shortly after being sworn in on Wednesday. White testified to seeing Flores around 1 p.m. on June 9th, the day Doolittle was murdered, at his home in Berthoud and said his behavior didn’t lead her to believe anything was out of the ordinary.
The prosecution is set to rest their case tomorrow and it will then be in the defense’s hands. The trial is scheduled to continue all next week but may be completed before then.
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