Judge: Car in Penacook murder case to be returned to owner

  • Daswan Jette is escorted from Merrimack County Superior Court on Thursday, June 1, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The car that carried Sabrina Galusha after she was fatally stabbed in May will remain in evidence for one more week at the request of defense attorneys.

The black Chevrolet Cruze will be returned to Annika Tidd after more than four months in police custody, a judge ordered Tuesday during a hearing in the murder case against Daswan Jette, 21. Authorities seized the car May 30 as part of their investigation into the death of 23-year-old Galusha, whom they say Jette stabbed multiple times that night in Penacook.

Tidd was driving the car that was carrying Galusha, of Concord, and two other friends, a police detective testified previously. The group had met Jette outside the Penacook Place Apartments about 8:30 p.m. to sell him a half-ounce of marijuana, which they say he stole, prompting a violent scuffle that led to Galusha’s death.

Public defender Robin Davis told a judge Tuesday that her legal team is still reviewing evidence as part of pretrial discovery and is concerned about the vehicle being returned to its owner too soon. Initially, Davis recommended that the state retain possession of the vehicle until December, when she anticipates the discovery process will wrap up.

Due to the state’s objection, Davis agreed to a compromise of one week instead of two months. Judge Kissinger Jr. also told Davis he would not order the car held long-term for mere “generalized concerns.” The car is due to be returned Oct. 11.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said investigators have worked with defense attorneys for months to accommodate multiple requests concerning evidence from the car, but that it’s time the car – which is severely depreciating in value – be returned to its owner.

“Every time we comply with a defense request, something new comes up,” Strelzin said.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Davis said Jette had raised questions about the positioning of the seats within the car. She said she did not know if that evidence had been preserved and wanted to revisit the issue with a defense expert.

“I understand that the state thinks that they’ve collected the evidence that they think is important to their case,” Davis said, adding she has an obligation to leave no stone unturned to ensure Jette receives a fair trial.

Strelzin later clarified, “We don’t just document evidence in support of our case; we document and collect any and all evidence.”

He noted that Tuesday was the first time Davis had expressed an interest in the positioning of the seats within the vehicle – evidence he believes was preserved in the early stages of the investigation. Tuesday, he said, the seats are not as they were on the night of the stabbing because a detective much taller than Tidd had since driven the car.

Jette is being held without bail on charges of first- and second-degree murder. He was initially charged with alternative counts of second-degree murder. The first-degree murder charge was added to the case after a grand jury review in late August.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)