COLEMAN — Lanny Bush's case will be in the hands of a 42nd Court jury sometime Friday.
The state and defense both rested their cases Thursday afternoon in the trial of the 54-year-old former Brownwood man, who is charged with capital murder in the September 2012 death of his ex-girlfriend, Michele Reiter of Brownwood.
Defense attorney Perry Sims put on three witnesses who offered just a few minutes of testimony. Sims announced that Bush had elected not to testify, and closed the defense's case.
Court began Thursday morning with the prosecution — consisting of 42nd District Attorney Heath Hemphill, 35th District Attorney Micheal Murray and Murray's first assistant district attorney, Sam Moss — putting on the final hours of its case.
Brown County Sheriff's investigator James Stroope told jurors he had used software and Sprint cell phone records to track the locations of Bush's and Reiter's cell phones on the night of Sept.10, 2010, when Reiter disappeared. Stroope acknowledged that it wasn't possible to know who actually had the phones.
As long as a cell phone is turned on, Stroope said, it is communicating with the nearest cell phone tower. The phone's approximate location can be determined, Stroope said, although the actual location can be anywhere from 50 feet to a half-mile away from the location in the records.
Based on those records, Stroope said, investigators believe that Bush's and Reiter's cell phones were at the same location at 6:33 p.m. on Sept. 10. That location was near the Camp Bowie ball fields off FM 45, Stroope testified. That is also the location where investigators found Reiter's car after she was reported missing.
Investigators believe the two phones traveled together from Brownwood to the area where Reiter's body was found two weeks later in a shallow grave in Coleman County, Stroope said. The grave was under a bridge on FM 1026, 9 miles south of Coleman and .9 mile south of the intersection of FM 1026 and U.S. Highway 67.
The phones were stationary for "quite some time" in the area of the grave, and at 7:57 p.m., a text was sent from Reiter's phone to the phone of her roommate, Denise Worrell, according to testimony. The text, which was purported to be from Reiter, indicated she was going to meet a man named Rocky Switzer and would be home late.
Bush told Texas Rangers on Sept. 19 that he was actually the author of that text, according to testimony.
Only one phone — Bush's — left the gravesite. Reiter's phone stopped communicating with a tower at 8:55 p.m. Bush drove to San Angelo, where he had been living with a woman named Cynthia Barrow since late August 2012. Cell phone records indicate that Bush returned to the area of the gravesite the next morning, and Reiter's phone communicated once again with a tower at 10:37 a.m. Stroope testified,
Investigators had no idea where to look for Reiter until receiving cell phone records, Texas Ranger Danny Crawford testified. The morning of Sept. 24, a search team of 50-75 people from multiple agencies began searching the area where Reiter's body was ultimately found. Searchers found Reiter's remains in a grave that was 8 inches deep, 5 feet long about 3 1/2 feet wide, Crawford testified.
Dr. Marc Krouse of the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office testified that Reiter's remains were in a "moderate-to-advanced" stage of decomposition and he could find no signs of injury. Krouse ruled that the cause and manner of Reiter's death are "undetermined," Krouse testified.
Sims' defense witnesses included Cynthia Barrow of San Angelo. Bush moved in with her after he broke up with Reiter and the two stopped living together, Barrow testified. She said she and Bush were longtime friends. On the night of Sept. 10, Barrow testified, Bush came home late, acting normal, and not seem disturbed or upset. She said Bush did not indicate any animosity toward Reiter.
Under cross-examination by Murray, Barrow said she knew Bush had been communicating with Reiter on Facebook under the made-up name of Rocky Switzer. Bush said he wanted "closure" with Reiter and wanted to know if she was seeing anyone, Barrow testified.
Bush said he was hacking Reiter's Facebook and phone and intended to make her life "a living hell," Barrow testified.
When Murray challenged her earlier testimony that Bush showed no animosity toward Reiter, Barrow said, "well, he was upset and wanted to hurt her the way he was was hurt."