"You're lying out your ass, Lanny Bush you killed her."
Texas Ranger Danny Crawford spat out the words near the end of a five-hour interview he and fellow Ranger Nick Hanna conducted of Lanny Bush at a Department of Public Safety facility in San Angelo.
The date was Sept. 19, 2012, and authorities had not yet found the body of Bush's ex-girlfriend, Michele Reiter of Brownwood, who'd been reported missing nine days earlier.
Jurors in 42nd District Court in Coleman County finished watching the video of the Rangers' interview of Bush on Wednesday morning. Bush, 54, is standing trial for capital murder in Reiter's death. Her body was found Sept. 24, 2012 buried in a shallow grave in Coleman County.
The prosecution, consisting of 42nd District Attorney Heath Hemphill, 35th District Attorney Micheal Murray and Sam Moss, first assistant district attorney in Murray's office, started playing the video for jurors Tuesday. The dialogue involving the Rangers and Bush was cordial for much of the video but toward the end, it became heated as Crawford challenged Bush to reveal what had happened to Reiter.
Defense attorney Perry Sims continued to argue, through his cross-examination of state's witnesses, that investigators had focused solely on Bush as a suspect and hadn't been interested in finding any DNA that would lead to other suspects. There was no "biological" evidence linking Bush to Reiter's death, Sims established through cross-examination.
"You were looking solely at him?" Sims asked Hanna.
"It was his cell records that led us to the body," Hanna replied.
Statements to Texas Rangers
Bush and Reiter were no longer living together when she disappeared, but Bush told the Rangers he had created a Facebook persona named Rocky Switzer and communicated with Reiter through that persona. Bush said he'd done because Reiter was supposed to communicate with Bush as a condition of a deferred adjudication she was serving. Bush said Reiter had known that "Switzer" was really Bush.
The prosecution maintains that Bush created Switzer and claimed to be someone she'd known in high school.
Bush also told the Rangers that he had met with Reiter twice on Sept. 10 the last day she was seen alive and had sex with her. Bush said he'd planned to return a laptop computer, cell phone and jacket to Reiter that day.
Bush further told the Rangers he'd had Reiter's cell phone on Sept. 10 but had gotten rid of it.
On the video, Crawford told Bush that he was investigators' "best lead to Michele."
"I can't help you, Danny," Bush replied.
"I think you can," Crawford told Bush said as the voices became louder. Crawford told Bush that if Bush hadn't harmed her, he knew who did. "It's eating on you," Crawford told Bush.
"You've been close to telling us what we need to know." It showed on Bush's face that he was "on the edge" of telling, Crawford told Bush.
"I don't know where she's at or what happened to her," Bush replied.
A series of loud, rapid-fire comments ensued between the two in which Crawford told Bush several times that he was lying.
Hanna, testifying about the video Wednesday, said Bush's "story was changed numerous times throughout the interview" and said it was challenging to keep up with the changing details Bush provided.
Hanna said the type of sex act Bush had said he'd committed with Reiter on Sept. 10 "is associated with punishment" and is intended to cause pain.
At 7:56 p.m. on Sept. 10, Hanna testified. a text message was sent from Reiter's phone to the phone of her roommate, Denise Worrell. The text indicated that she was going to meet with Switzer and would be home late.
Bush told the Rangers he was the author of that text, Hanna testified. "It means that he was with the victim at the time of her disappearance, and ultimately, her death," Hanna said.
The persona known as Switzer was, initially, a prime suspect, Hanna said, but Switzer was set up as a "rabbit trail" for law enforcement to follow.
Hanna testified about items investigators had seized from Bush's truck and from the San Angelo home where he'd started living with another woman. Those items included a receipt showing Bush had bought .32 caliber ammunition from a Brownwood store, Hanna testified.
Switzer/Bush and Reiter
Jason Benefield, now an investigator with the state prison system in Maine, was a Brown County Sheriff's investigator when Reiter was killed.
With the assistance of Reiter's friend and her brother, Benefield was able to, essentially, hack Reiter's Facebook page and gain control of it. He said information indicated that Bush had somehow been able to access and control the Facebook page.
Benefield printed out several pages of Facebook conversations between Reiter and Bush/Switzer. Hemphill read the Switzer persona's message, while 35th Assistant District Attorney Christina Nelson read Reiter's messages.
The two discussed various topics including sports, work and past relationships, and Reiter indicated her "ex" was Lanny Bush. The two discussed the possibility of meeting.
"Do you smoke?" Reiter asked. "Lanny smoked like a freight train and I'm allergic to smoke."
Reiter indicated she'd had a new boyfriend but that had ended, Reiter messaged, because she'd found out he was married. She'd believed he had an "ex."
The two made plans to meet at Home Depot at 8:30 p.m. and go to what the Switzer person described as "a great little steak and pasta place in Santa Anna."
"Are you nervous as me?" Reiter asked.
She didn't come home that night, and Reiter's roommate went on to report her as missing.