Witness testimony concluded Wednesday in Highland County Common Pleas Court in the trial of James Carver, the New Vienna man charged with the February murder and rape of 33-year-old Wilmington resident Heather Camp.
Carver turned down a chance to testify in his own defense during Wednesday’s court proceedings.
Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins called the remainder of the 17 witnesses for the state, with defense attorney John Cornely calling none after Carver declined a chance to testify.
The science of DNA and firearms testing dominated the early part of Wednesday’s proceedings, with Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation’s Haydee Lara presenting her findings to the court that confirmed the DNA of Carver was present on Heather Camp’s body.
She told the court that four different “swabs” were taken from Camp’s body, two exterior and two interior, with two of the four swabs showing the presence of Carver’s DNA.
Carver, 40, allegedly beat Camp, shot her in the chest at close range on Feb. 17 in Highland, had sex with her as she was bleeding out, and refused to take her to the hospital.
Camp died nearly two days after she was shot, according to a bill of particulars filed by the Highland County Prosecutor’s Office. Carver was arrested three days after the alleged shooting.
The bill says Carver admitted to beating Camp, shooting her and having sex with her, although he maintained that the shooting was accidental as he was aiming the gun at Camp to intimidate her.
Carver is charged with murder, rape, having weapons under disability, domestic violence and tampering with evidence.
It was DNA evidence that called into question the legality of the rape charge against Carver, since Cornely raised an objection prior to a video scheduled to be shown of Carver’s interview and interrogation by authorities following his arrest.
Cornely’s objection was based on his client’s testimony in the video when he said he and Camp had sexual intercourse following the shooting. However, prior testimony by Lara showed Carver’s DNA was present on the exterior of Camp’s body, not the interior.
Judge Rocky Coss held up the proceedings for 45 minutes, telling attorneys that evidence at that point showed “sexual contact, but not sexual conduct,” adding that Carver’s admissions in the video wouldn’t be admissible since the post-mortem DNA report could not determine that Carver’s DNA was inside Camp’s body.
Coss eventually was able to locate earlier precedent from a separate case, and overruled defense objections.
The other forensic investigator to take the stand Wednesday was Andrew McClelland, another BCI agent who conducted testing on the alleged firearm used in Camp’s death — a .22 caliber Ruger pistol.
McClelland explained the procedure by which testing is conducted on a firearm, which included a visual inspection and test firing for shell casing and projectile comparison.
While confirming that the bullet found in Camp’s body during the autopsy came from a .22 Ruger pistol, due to the damage the bullet sustained as it passed through her body, McClelland told the court his office made an “inconclusive finding” as to whether or not it came from the gun that Carver is alleged to have used.
Under cross examination by Cornely, McClelland detailed the microscope examinations he subjected the test bullets to when compared with the bullet found in Camp’s body, in addition to his examination of the pistol. He reaffirmed there was no damage to the gun, that it was the same class with no aftermarket changes, and that it retained original manufacturer characteristics.
Lt. Brian McNeil of the Greenfield Police Department testified that he served a search warrant on Feb. 20, 2019 at the Robert and Kalie Kinnison home in Greenfield. He said he recovered seven intact .22 caliber cartridges and the spent casing fired from Carver’s gun that Kalie Kinnison had retrieved from Carver’s Chevrolet Trailblazer.
McNeil said he also secured a trash bag that contained a pair of black boots that belonged to Camp that Kalie Kinnison earlier said she placed on her front porch.
Det. Sgt. Randy Sanders of the Highland County Sheriff’s Office faced intense questioning from both sides, telling the court one of his first duties in the case was contacting Camp’s next of kin on Feb. 19, 2019. He said that after speaking with Mary Camp, the deceased’s mother, and her sister, Brandy, that Tyler Lawrence showed him the location of the camper where Carver and Heather Camp had been staying.
The next day, Feb. 20, he said he executed a search warrant of the camper. He said it had been occupied by the the victim and the suspected, that he retrieved a blood-stained bra and blouse, pointing out for the jury a small hole in the chest area of the garment that still showed a blood stain from where the bullet passed through.
He displayed both the bra and blouse to the jury, in addition to the gray handbag they were found in, along with Heather Camp’s EBT, debit and identification card, and told the jury that he saw blood stains on a bed sheet inside the camper.
Sanders gave an account of Carver’s arrest, noting that he had been staying at the residence of Erin Back at 2119 E. Third St., apartment A, in Dayton, with Carver’s vehicle having been found in a nearby parking lot at 2131 E. Third St.
Evidence collected at the scene, Sanders said, included blood-stained boots and pants belonging to Carver that Sanders said had Heather Camp’s blood on them.
He described for the court the retrieval of the alleged murder weapon, saying it was found in a barn in Fayette County “wrapped in a red shop rag inside a black plastic bag.”
Under cross examination, Cornely attempted to discredit the credibility of Robert and Kalie Kinnison, saying they lied regarding their knowledge of the case at the onset of the investigation. But Sanders said Robert Kinnison eventually “broke down and was crying in a Greenfield police cruiser” and that the Kinnisons confessed the truth about the events of the night Heather Camp was brought to their home after she had been shot.
Cornely asked if the weapon had been tested for DNA, with Sanders answering that due to BCI limitations, it had not been despite Carver’s earlier deposition that Camp had reached for the gun when it discharged.
Det. Vincent Antinore was extensively questioned on the witness stand about the techniques he employed in the interview and interrogation of Carver. He said he told Carver that instead of referring to the events as a murder, he represented it as “a crime of passion,” and the ensuing one hour and 41-minute video presented to the court showed the pattern of questioning that Antinore employed.
In the video, Carver repeatedly stated that he never had any intention of killing Camp, instead claiming the gun went off accidentally when Camp tried to take the gun away from him after he pointed it at her in a threatening manner.
Antinore said that Carver changed his account of what happened six different times, and that the seventh account was the one that matched up with evidence already gathered. He told the court Carver told him, “he pointed the gun at her because he was mad at her and she grabbed it, and it went off.”
Near the close of Wednesday’s proceedings with the jury out of the room, Cornely objected to the court, saying that in his opinion there was not sufficient evidence to convict his client on any of the six counts, and that the charge of murder most likely resembled reckless homicide.
Collins countered by saying the state had provided more than enough evidence to convict Carver on all six counts, an opinion ultimately shared by Coss as proceedings closed.
The judge said that there was sufficient evidence:
• To uphold the first count of a murder charge since he believed the evidence showed that Carver purposely killed Camp.
• That the evidence showed a gun was used in commission of the offense, which was the second count of the original indictment.
• That the third count, rape, applied to testimony that was heard regarding Camp’s physical condition following the shooting.
• The fourth count, having weapons while under disability, was obvious to the case since Carver was a convicted felon and was prohibited from owning or using a firearm.
• Count five, domestic violence, as testified to in the case, still applied.
• The final count, tampering with evidence, was appropriate since testimony showed Carver had made an effort to move or conceal evidence, disposed of Camp’s cell phone and returned the gun used in the crime to Roy Dunihue for concealment or disposition.
Court was recessed until 8:30 a.m. Thursday, at which time Coss indicated closing arguments would be heard from both sides. The judge said he expected to give final instructions to the jury and hand the case to the nine women and three men who will begin debating Carver’s fate around 11 a.m.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.