Shultz receives Pay It 4ward honor

Elizabeth Shultz, daughter of Garvin County News Star owners Jeff and Nanette Shultz, was selected to receive the Pay It 4ward honor for her work in volunteering for an art program brought to Moore’s Plaza Towers and Briarwood students. The segment will be featured on the KFOR, July 16 10:00 p.m. broadcast.

Art Feeds of Joplin, Missouri, proved to be overwhelmingly successful in helping the young victims navigate through the aftermath of the tragedy, allowing them to express through Art what they could not articulate in words.

After the Moore tornado, Joplin offered the art therapy program for 12 weeks. Shultz, along with other volunteers, worked with students of both schools. They were so moved by the healing they saw take place in the young lives through art and guided interaction that they began in April of this year a fundraising campaign to bring an Art Feeds chapter to Moore permanently.

The $400 will greatly aid their efforts in raising the $28,000 needed. More information on the program and how to donate can be found on their Facebook page Keep Art Feeds In Moore.

Hammer found guilty of first-degree murder

By Bonnie Seymour

News Star Reporter

After a deliberation that lasted less than two hours the jury in the trial of Justin Lee Hammer returned a guilty verdict of murder in the first degree in the death of Brandon Duran.

With that verdict came a sentencing recommendation, which was life without the possibility of parole.

The State had decided to not seek the death penalty in the case.

Before the verdict was reached though both the prosecution and the defense made closing arguments before the jury and the courtroom audience.

Prosecutor Tara Portillo began closing arguments, presenting the State’s case for a guilty verdict.

“Brandon Duran was the son of Cindy Wear, the brother of Garrett Wear, and the father of [son].  He now fits into another category – a homicide victim,” Portillo told the jury.

Portillo then went on to argue that Duran was unarmed that night and that Hammer had never said that he was afraid until after he had been caught; then he “freaked out”.

The 2007 shooting of Charlie Foster was again brought to light to show Hammer did in fact know what should have been done if the killing of Duran was in fact self-defense.

“But it was not self-defense he was acting in.  It was cold-blooded murder.”

Portillo then stated that a reasonable person doesn’t do the things that Hammer did to Duran, like cut a body into twenty-five pieces, put it into  buckets with cement and a dog crate, and put them in a pond on their own property.

Duran’s possible involvement with the Banditos motorcycle club was again discussed, with Portillo showing a picture of Duran wearing his father’s Banditos gear next to his grandmother.

“Sons love their daddies.  It doesn’t make you a Bandito,” said Portillo.

As well as having no weapons the night of August 7, 2012 Duran also brought no one with him, a fact that didn’t sound very “Bandito-ish” to Portillo.

Inconsistencies in information told to then OSBI Agent Marvin Akers was brought before the jury, with Hammer telling Akers during questioning that he had been sitting in  a chair in his living room when Duran kicked in his door and entered his residence.

Hammer testified in court Wednesday, July 9 that he had been in his kitchen when Duran entered the residence and by the time he knew Duran was there Duran was in the middle in the living room.

Much was also made of the fact that Duran had no cellphone or GPS device on him and how difficult if would have been for him to find Hammer’s residence without such devices, having never been there before.

“He was a San Diego boy.  He probably didn’t even know what NCR stood for in an address,” said Portillo.

Memories were also jogged regarding the fact that multiple people had testified to the fact that Hammer had made threats against Duran on various occasions.

Hammer’s financial state at the time of the murder, which Hammer himself had testified about was examined in the closing as Hammer had said the day before that he was on food stamps and that his father, Bobby Hammer, had been paying his electric bill for him as he was broke at that time and couldn’t afford to pay his bills.

“But he needed to spend $80.00 right then for something that he wasn’t going to need for a couple months,” said Portillo, rehashing Hammer’s testimony that he had bought the 800 pounds of concrete to fix an issue he had around his dog kennel before his next litter was born.

The order in which shots were fired into Duran as told by Hammer was also inconsistent with the findings of Dr. Chai Choi, Chief Forensic Pathologist for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office.

Hammer stated on the stand that he had first fired the youth 410 shotgun that he was holding in his right hand and followed with three shots from the .22 caliber pistol.

Dr. Choi testified that no blood was found in the lungs of Duran, meaning had he been alive when he received that shot, Duran would have breathed in blood, and that in fact that wound had very little hemorrhaging at all.

The dissection of Hammer’s testimony continued as Portillo pointed out the excessive use of the phrases “I don’t know”, “I don’t recall”, and “I don’t remember” by the “emotionless” Hammer on the stand.

“Cold-blooded murder doesn’t have emotion,” said Portillo.

“This wasn’t self-defense.  All this defendant cared about was getting caught.”

It was then time for Hammer’s attorney, Michael Haggerty to make his closing argument, beginning by telling the jury that a not guilty verdict was the right way to go.

“There are only twelve people in the world who can make this decision and that is y’all,” said Haggerty.

Haggerty continued to argue that the murder was an act of self-defense, with Duran kicking in Hammer’s door and entering Hammer’s home unlawfully and went on to list of the hard facts of the case as presented at the trial.

“With these facts alone you cannot find Justin Hammer guilty of first degree murder.

“They’ve got to prove that [Duran] lawfully got into that living room and they don’t have it.  They just don’t have it,” stated Haggerty.

Haggerty also continued to attack Van Emblom’s testimony and character stating that Emblom is a “person who is just making it up as he goes along” and questioning his loyalty to the Hammer family as he had been sitting near Duran’s for the time he was allowed to be in the courtroom.

The fact that Hammer used the “two worse guns in his inventory” and that 800 pounds of concrete would not fit into five five gallon buckets alone, let alone with body parts in them was also argued, as well as the fact that Hammer did not throw away the guns or saw he broke cutting up Duran’s motorcycle, and lit a fire that could be seen for miles during a burn ban; all of this pointing to the fact that this was not a planned killing.

Use of Hammer’s Ace Rewards Card was also used as proof by Haggerty that the murder was not planned.

Haggerty’s argument turned to motive then.

“Was [Hammer] trying to get Amber all to himself?  Was it revenge for the beatings [Amber Andrews] said [Duran] did?  Was it to get Amber’s kid?  It’s just not there,” said Haggerty.

“Duran had a motive to go to Justin’s house.  He heard that Amber was going to testify at Justin’s custody hearing on August 9, [Duran] was getting back together Amber, and he went to Hammer’s house to tell him to stay away from her,” Haggerty went on.

Haggerty ended his argument by urging the jury to return a verdict of not guilty on the charge of first degree murder, the only charge Hammer was charged with.

Prosecutor for the state Jennifer Austin then offered a rebuttal to Haggerty’s closing argument.

“[Hammer] was two days and a Van away,” began Austin, referencing the custody hearing that was scheduled to take place August 9, 2012.

“If Van hadn’t told we would have never known about this,” Austin went on.

Austin then argued that the reason Hammer had not gotten rid of items use in the killing because he believed that he wasn’t going to get caught and also continued praising Emblom, calling him a hero.

“Van had a conscience.  Van did the right thing.  I told you in jury selection that you wouldn’t want to take some of our witnesses out to dinner.  Yes, he had a lot of things to deal with but if he hadn’t have told this family would have no idea what happened to Brandon,” said Austin.

“[Emblom] is the only one who did the right thing that day,” Austin went on.

Austin also said that there was a motive there but it was Andrews’ motive and that Andrews is not a concern of the jurors but of the prosecution and that they’ll “take care of it”.

The night of the crime was Austin’s next attack, citing that Hammer wasn’t out waiting for Banditos to attack, he was out covering up the crime that had been committed.

Austin also implied that the shooting didn’t take place inside of Hammer’s home as no blood or other particles were found in the living room and the carpet had not been cleaned as Hammer had testified that they were, though she did remind the jury that a tarp was found in the burn barrel and could have been used to cover the living room floor and other areas.

The guns that were used were Austin’s next target, with Austin stating that he didn’t want to use the good ones and that neither of the guns used could be traced back to Hammer.

“They were easy to handle and they did the job,” said Austin.

Austin also shared the fact that Hammer made his bed the next morning.

“He wasn’t scared of anything.  [Hammer] was lying in wait for Brandon Duran to be brought to his house,” said Austin.

Austin then requested that the jury return a sentence of life without parole.

“[Hammer] hurt all these people for a woman and he sent Brandon Duran home to his mama in pieces.”

HAMMER FOUND GUILTY

The jury in the Justin Hammer case has returned a guilty verdict and a sentence of life in prison without parole. The News Star will have more on the verdict and closing remarks given this morning later.

Hammer takes stand and defense rests case

By Bonnie Seymour

News Star Reporter

While three witnesses took the stand Wednesday, July 9 in the State’s case against Justin Lee Hammer one of those witnesses stood out; Hammer himself.

Many things were rehashed during Hammer’s testimony but the first thing that was made clear was that he readily admits to killing Brandon Duran and dismembering his body on August 7, 2012, but the story he tells is one of fear and self-defense.

Hammer claims that Duran broke into his house that night unheard by Hammer, who was in his kitchen while his stereo played in his living room.

“I came out of my kitchen and he was already in my living room,” Hammer said.

Hammer testified that Duran told him to stay away from Amber Andrews because Duran and Andrews were getting back together and that Duran stated that he was a member of the Banditos and would have Hammer’s whole family killed.

Grabbing two guns “without hesitation” that were laying on top if his gun safe, a youth 410 rifle with his right hand and a .22 caliber pistol with his left, Hammer then opened fire.

“I pointed the [shotgun] at his face and fired,” testified Hammer.

Hammer then stood directly over him and fired three .22 shots into the left side of Duran’s head.

Hammer stated that he didn’t know what to do at that point but he did put the body in a large canvas bag and moved Duran’s motorcycle into his shop building.

Hammer’s attorney Michael Haggerty’s line of questioning then turned to the materials that were purchased by Hammer the day before and day of the killing, with Hammer stating that he had purchased the buckets to transport water to the dogs he breeds on his property, the cement to repair a path near his kennel and fill in a hole near a water spigot and the bleach and gloves to clean and sanitize the dog kennel and dog houses around his property.

Those were the items that were used in the next portion of the crime as Hammer testified to mixing the concrete in a protein tub in his bathroom and beginning to dismember the body of Duran “one limb at a time,” pulling each from the canvas bag that helped contain most of the blood, cutting them into several pieces and then mixing those parts with concrete within the five gallon buckets that he sealed as he went.

Hammer also testified that he vomited at some point during this.

“Cutting up a human is different than cutting up an animal,” he said.

At that point Hammer cleaned up his residence, put the rest of the concrete in the hole near his water spigot and called Van Emblom, a longtime friend.

When asked by Haggerty why he called Emblom, Hammer stated that he “was freaking out and looking for some help”.

While Emblom was present Hammer stated that he was running around doing stuff while Emblom paced around but, according to Hammer, he was not the “cool, calm, and collected” person Emblom testified that he was.

“I definitely wasn’t calm but I wasn’t freaking out as much as Van either,” said Hammer.

When Emblom said that he wanted no part in the crime being committed Hammer took him back to his home.

Upon taking Emblom home, Hammer returned to his house to decide what to do next and it was there that paranoia struck him.

“I was paranoid about having a body in the back of my truck so I took it to the closest pond to me.”

Hammer then drove to the pond and disposed of the five 5-gallon buckets and dog crate that Hammer used one of Duran’s straps from his motorcycle to fasten a cinder block to, swimming all of the items as far as he could into the pond.

With the task completed, Hammer returned to his home, showered in the same tub that he dismembered Duran in and went to sleep until around 8:00 or 9:00 the next morning.

The next day, August 8, 2012, Hammer decided it was time to dispose of Duran’s motorcycle and began to cut it into pieces.

During this time Hammer’s saw broke and once his uncle, William Welch, arrived they drove to Wal-Mart in Pauls Valley to buy a new one.

When Hammer was asked if Welch knew what he was getting himself into by helping him, Hammer testified that he did not.

“[Welch] thought he was picking up a stolen bike,” Hammer told the courtroom.

The missing seat of Duran’s cycle was asked about, with Hammer stating that the leather cover baring Duran’s name had “probably” been thrown in the burn barrel and the rest of the seat is in his shop building.

Haggerty also made much out of the fact that Hammer was reportedly supposed to receive sole custody of his children at a hearing that was scheduled for August 9, 2012, with Andrews reportedly testifying on Hammer’s behalf in the custody case.

“We weren’t as close then but we were still in a relationship,” said Hammer.

Prosecutor Jennifer Austin began her cross examination of Hammer by asking him why he lied when agent Marvin Akers of the OSBI began to question him about the crime the next day with Hammer replying that he was in a state of shock, drawing disbelief from Austin.

“How could you be in shock after everything that had already happened?  Isn’t it true you were in shock that you were caught, about going to jail?” Austin asked, drawing an objection.

Austin also brought up an incident from 2007 where Hammer shot his friend, Charlie Foster in the neck in self-defense, stating that Hammer’s wife at the time called the cops while Hammer held a towel to his friend’s neck.

“You knew what to do, you just didn’t do it,” Austin said to Hammer in regards to the actions he took the night of Duran’s death.

Hammer also admitted to not knowing how Duran got into his house that night despite telling Akers that Duran had kicked his door in.

In addition to that Hammer stated that he didn’t hear Duran arrive and that his pit bulls did not bark when he arrived.

During the cross-examination it was also learned that Andrews still has daily contact with Hammer and has a child that was born while Hammer was in jail that calls him daddy, a child that he thought was his until recently.

Austin also told the court that Andrews had told police that the supplies that Hammer bought were to build a flowerbed for her and that Andrews reported the same thing to police as Hammer; that Duran had gone to a club and no one had seen him since.

Hammer did agree that disposing of the body was wrong and that he was not disputing it but Austin had theory when it came to the disposal.

“You weren’t banking on anyone finding that body and you weren’t banking on Van talking,” stated Austin.

“No, I was not,” Hammer replied.

Closing arguments are set to begin Thursday, July 10 at 9:00 p.m.

Hammer takes the stand; State rests its case

By Jeff Shultz

and Bonnie Seymour

WARNING: Some of the material reported in this story may be offensive to more sensitive readers.

Justin Hammer took the stand in his own defense Wednesday, July 9, in an effort to tell his side of the story in the murder and dismemberment of Brandon Duran two years ago.

Hammer is accused of murdering Duran on August 7, 2012, and then dismembering his body and dumping it in a pond in an effort to cover up the alleged murder.

In taking the stand in his-own defense, Hammer admitted killing Duran on August 7, 2012, but claimed the murder was in self-defense.

Hammer told the 8-man, 4-woman jury that Duran said he was connected to a motorcycle gang called the Banditos and that he “would have (Hammer’s) whole family killed.”

He testified that the .22 caliber revolver and the youth 410 shotgun used in the murder were sitting on top of the gun safe in his home and that he grabbed them without hesitation, holding the shotgun in his right hand and the pistol in his left and shot Duran.

When asked by his defense attorney why he bought the buckets and concrete, he stated he bought the buckets to transport water to some dogs he breeds and keeps on his property and the concrete was going to be used to fix a path next to his kennel and to fill a hole the dogs had dug out by a water faucet.

When asked about the bleach and gloves allegedly used in the murder, Hammer said he used those items to clean the dog pens.

Hammer said after killing Duran and cutting up his body, he swam the buckets and dog crate as far as he could in the pond and let them go.

The News Star will have complete details of Hammer’s testimony on our web site Thursday, July 10.

Meanwhile, the state rested its case in the Justin Hammer murder trial Tuesday, July 8, but not before some emotionally distressing photos were admitted into evidence.

Prior to the jury entering the courtroom, District Judge Greg Dixon admonished the audience concerning the nature of the evidence to be presented.

“I would like to encourage the audience to be respectful of the court as you have been over the past few days,” he said.

The state’s first witness was Dr. Chai Choi, Chief Forensic Pathologist for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office.

Choi performed the autopsy on Brandon Duran on August 10, 2012.

Choi testified Duran’s body was delivered to her in six containers – one body bag containing his torso area and five separate white buckets containing various body parts.

Upon opening the body bag she found Duran’s trunk area in two pieces – the chest and the abdomen areas.

As Choi testified, the state presented several photos of the dismembered body to collaborate her testimony.

Hammer and his defense team had a standing objection to the admission of the photos as evidence, which was over-ruled by Dixon.

Choi stated that in all of the body parts where they had been cut up, the cut marks were “clean.”

“It took a very powerful tool to make these cuts,” she stated.

Choi said the torso was initially found in a dog crate in the pond and was later moved to a body bag.

After examining the torso area, she moved to the five ACE Hardware buckets containing the remaining body parts. All of the body parts were submerged in concrete.

The first bucket contained Duran’s severed head, which had four gunshot wounds.

“The first wound I saw was a shotgun wound where the blast entered the right cheek and exited the left cheek, slightly above where the entrance wound was,” she said.

Choi said the shotgun blast was from a close range, but couldn’t say how close the shotgun was to Duran’s face when the blast occurred.

When asked how she knew the blast was at close range, Choi said the right cheek still had a few shotgun pellets in it, indicating the closer the shot is to the victim, the less pellets there will be found in the body.

Next she examined three gunshot wounds on the left side of Duran’s head.

A .22 caliber revolver found at Hammer’s house after the murder allegedly made the wounds.

“These did not have an exit wound. I did find bullet fragments on the right side of the victim’s brain, just above the right ear,” she said.

Choi said she could not determine in what order the bullet wounds were made on Duran’s temple, but felt they were the first shots fired into his head, with the shotgun blast coming afterward.

Also in the bucket were two reciprocal saw blades, one bearing the ACE Hardware logo, and some coins.

All during her testimony, Hammer sat watching the photos as they were published to the jury, showing no emotion during each slide.

Choi then examined the remaining buckets.

The second bucket contained the upper right leg and foot of Duran. The limb was cut in six pieces.

The third bucket housed the right arm and hand and lower part of the left thigh. There were four pieces all together in this container.

Duran’s left arm, cut in six pieces, was found in the fourth bucket and the fifth bucket contained the rest of his left leg, cut in six sections.

Choi also testified there was urine found in Duran’s bladder and the toxicology results on the urine showed there was no trace of alcohol or drugs in his body at the time of his death.

Under cross-examination by the defense, Choi was asked if Duran’s urine could have been diluted from the pond water.

Choi replied it would not, that while other tissues and his blood were exposed to the pond water, his urine was not exposed as it was in the bladder.

The state’s last witness was Bobby Hammer, father of Justin Hammer.

The elder Hammer testified that he was the owner of the house his son lived in and the alleged murder took place.

On August 8, 2012, he was advised of the murder and was accompanied by OSBI Agent Marvin Akers to the house on August 9.

“I wanted to get the contents of the safe and other valuables out the house. I knew there would be vandals in the house at sometime,” Bobby said.

He testified that while in the house on August 9 with Akers, he found a .22 caliber revolver and gave it to Akers.

“He said, ‘There’s blood on this revolver’ and took it and placed it in a plastic bag,” Bobby stated.

The elder Hammer also testified that on August 15, 2012, he contacted the OSBI about some other possible evidence he found at the house.

The evidence was some motorcycle tag cuttings and a Saws All saw.

Bobby testified he could tell the house had been vandalized and there were people who had been in the house after the murder.

“I found the front door open. The deadbolt lock on it was busted and made it very easy for anyone to get into the house.”

On cross-examination, Bobby was asked about his relationship with Van Robert Emblom, an employee of his and the person who first contacted the OSBI about the murder.

When asked when Emblom left his ranching business, Bobby said it was April of 2014.

Asked if he was fired or if he left on his own, Bobby stated the dismissal was “mutual.”

Asked why he left, Bobby Hammer replied that he found a loaded gun and some drug paraphernalia belonging to Emblom on piece of equipment belonging to his ranch.

The elder Hammer said the drug paraphernalia was a glass cup used to cook meth in and a dog collar, which is used to wrap around the arm while injecting drugs.

He also said he found a “diabetes type” of syringe used to inject drugs.

Under redirect by the prosecution, Hammer was asked that given the circumstances surrounding Emblom and his connection with the case, wouldn’t he carry a weapon if he were in the same situation.

Hammer thought about it for a second and then said, “No. I wouldn’t.”

After Bobby Hammer’s testimony the state rested their case against Justin Hammer.

 

DNA evidence entered into Hammer trial

By Jeff Shultz

Publisher

Criminal evidence, including DNA data, was the biggest issue during Monday’s shortened trial proceedings in the Justin Hammer case.

Hammer, Elmore City, is charged with the first-degree murder and dismemberment of Brandon Duran in August of 2012.

First on the witness stand was OSBI (Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation) Crime Scene Investigator Francia Thompson.

Thompson’s testimony centered on the evidentiary evidence she collected at Hammer’s rural Elmore City home on August 8 and 9, 2012, where Hammer allegedly committed the murder.

Thompson confirmed a large number of photographs taken at the house were photos she had taken including photos of each room in the house, bloodstains and where they were located at and a bullet hole in Hammer’s living room ceiling allegedly from a shotgun blast.

In the main bathroom of the house, Thompson testified she found bloodstains on the toilet seat and mirror but not in the bathtub.

“Upon entering the bathroom I could smell the odor of cleaning products, including bleach, and the area in front of the bathtub was wet,” she told lead prosecutor Jennifer Austin.

Thompson also testified she found outside the house a burn barrel with several items in the barrel that looked scorched.

The items included a towel, a mop and some blue jeans.

She also found a receipt for the purchase of a reciprocal saw at the Pauls Valley Walmart. The saw was purchased earlier on the afternoon of August 8, the day of the alleged murder.

Thompson said a .22 caliber revolver, which was later recovered at the residence after she had finished with her initial investigation, was brought to her for processing.

“I found possible blood on two places on the barrel of the gun,” she noted.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Michael Haggerty asked Thompson about the bullet hole found in the ceiling and about the revolver.

“Were there any powder (marks) in and around the bullet hole?” Haggerty asked.

Thompson said ballistics was not her expertise but as far as she could tell there were none.

Haggerty then asked if anyone at the OSBI had ever tested the revolver to see if it actually worked or not.

“Not to my knowledge,” she said.

Thompson testified she had sent all of the possible bloodstains, including the two from the revolver’s barrel, to the OSBI Crime Lab for further testing.

Sarah Ferrero of the OSBI’s Crime Lab in Lawton testified briefly that the blood on the revolver and four of the bloodstains sent to her tested positive as being blood, which prompted her to send them to another forensic biologist for DNA sampling.

Barbara Wells, OSBI criminologist at the Edmond Crime Lab testified she was able to pull a DNA panel from the two bloodstains found on the revolver and two of the other four sent to her.

She confirmed the bloodstains on the revolver matched each other and one of the other bloodstains from the house was a match with them.

She then compared the DNA panel to one she had pulled from Duran’s body. However, because the body had been under water for so long, the blood sample was diluted, she said.

“I was able to only pull a partial DNA panel from his blood, but what I had pulled did match with the bloodstains I tested earlier,” she said.

Wells said the odds of finding someone at random with the same DNA make-up as Duran’s was 1 in 91.7 quintillion.

As she was telling the jury how much a quintillion was, Austin interrupted her by stating the number was greater “than the population of the earth.”

Wells agreed with her.

Wells also testified she examined a pair of orange gloves found at Hammer’s home during the warrant search of the house.

She said she found no signs of blood on the outside of the gloves, but did find “touch DNA samples” on the inside of the gloves.

“Touch DNA is when the gloves have touched someone else and their DNA is transferred into the inner lining of the gloves,” Wells noted.

Wells said the touch DNA she found matched Duran’s DNA.

After a brief lunch recess, the State called Kenneth Parker to the stand.

Parker is a floor manager for the Pauls Valley ACE Hardware store and was testifying to an encounter he had with someone two days before the alleged murder.

The customer was asking Parker about various saw blades and what they were used for.

“He said he was needing to cut up some metal and needed a saw blade for the job,” Parker stated.

The jury was then shown a surveillance video from the ACE Hardware security camera showing Parker talking to the customer and then getting the customer five 5-gallon buckets from a different area from the store while the customer continued to shop.

When asked if this was a normal transaction for someone to make, Parker said, “Yes, we get these type of sales all the time. There was nothing out of the ordinary about this sale to make it stand out in my mind.

“The only time I even remembered the encounter was when I was watching the surveillance video with the OSBI agent who was questioning me.”

At no time did Austin or fellow prosecutor Tara Portillio ask Parker if he could identify the customer as Hammer.

The final two witnesses gave short testimony concerning Duran and his alleged girlfriend Amber Anders.

Miguel Tafoa testified he and Duran had been life long friends and that early in August of 2012 Duran, Anders and the child they shared stopped by his home in New Mexico on their way to Oklahoma.

Tafoa said they met at a restaurant and that at one point during the meal Anders got up to go the bathroom.

“I was concerned that he (Duran) was seeing her again and asked if everything was OK,” he said.

Duran allegedly told him everything was fine and that he and Anders were trying to “make a go of it and get back together again.”

He said the last he heard from Duran was when Duran texted him that they made it okay to Oklahoma.

On cross-examination, Tafoa told the court he had no knowledge of Duran belonging to a motorcycle gang called the Banditos.

“The only time I think he had any contact with them was when some of them showed up for his father’s funeral,” he said.

The final witness was an employee at the Pauls Valley Women’s and Children’s Clinic.

Alicia Johnson testified an Amber McMahan had been scheduled for a clinic appointment at 4 p.m. on August 7, 2012 and that she never showed up for the appointment.

No reason for missing the appointment was given by McMahan and she was entered as a “no show” for the appointment.

The trial will resume Tuesday, June 8, at 9:00 a.m. at the Garvin County Courthouse.

Testimony continues in Hammer trial

By Bonnie Seymour

News Star Reporter

Van Robert Emblom returned to the stand for the beginning of cross-examination Thursday, July 3 in the State’s case against Justin Lee Hammer.

Hammer is being charged with the first degree murder of Brandon Duran.

Michael Haggerty, defense attorney for Hammer, had a line of questioning that focused predominately on Emblom’s credibility as a witness, Hammer’s gun collection, and Emblom’s recent departure from his job with Bobby Hammer, Justin’s father.

Haggerty questioned some alleged inconsistencies in Emblom’s testimony given Wednesday, July 2, the first day of the trial, and testimony given during a pretrial hearing in February of 2013.

Multiple times Emblom was asked if he has been truthful throughout past statements and testimony he had given and multiple times Emblom stood by the fact that he had.

“I have been trying to be truthful at all times,” said Emblom.

Emblom had testified the day before that Justin Hammer had told him that he had asked Duran “how do you want it?” before allegedly shooting Duran with the first of four gunshot wounds Duran would receive to the head and face.

Haggerty questioned this statement as it was not mentioned at the February 2013 pretrial hearing and there were no other records of Emblom reporting that information to authorities until the current trial.

According to a statement that Emblom made to OSBI Agent Marvin Akres on August 8, 2012 Hammer used a 410 shotgun for the crime.  At the time of his current testimony Emblom could not recall the type of shotgun, just that it was a shotgun.

Emblom’s employment with Bobby Hammer on a ranch owned by him also came into play as the incident that lead to him leaving the job was brought into question.

On March 12, 2013 Emblom brought a .357 pistol with him to work and as a result of that Bobby Hammer called the authorities.

“I had it for protection. I was afraid,” said Emblom.

A large animal syringe was also found on Emblom’s person at that time and was filled with penicillin that Emblom said was for a dog that had gotten in a fight.

No charges were ever pressed and Emblom quit working at the ranch that day.

On re-direct, Emblom told the court that the reason why he had not previously left his job working for Hammer’s father was  because he had respect for him and what had possibly happened with this son had no bearing on his employment.

Prosecutor Jennifer Austin again asked if it was hard for Emblom to testify against Justin Hammer and Emblom replied, “I spent more time with him than I did my real brother.  I spent more time with him than I did anyone.”

Next on the stand was William Welch, the uncle of Justin Hammer and the person that Hammer allegedly called on August 8, 2012 to have him get rid of a motorcycle that had been chopped into three pieces.

Welch stated that he arrived at the Hammer’s home in Elmore City around 3:45 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. the day he received the call.

“[Justin] said he had a cycle he wanted hauled off,” said Welch.

Welch did find this odd as he had never known Hammer to be a rider of motorcycles but Welch went to the house anyway because he wanted to see what was going on.

Welch testified that Hammer told him that the bike had been cut up when someone had caught their significant other “messing around,” a statement that differed from what he had said at the February pretrial hearing where he testified that Hammer said that some people had chopped up the bike and planned on reporting it stolen.

When asked about the inconsistency, Welch stated that he had been told both things by Hammer.

The day of August 8, 2012, Welch did take the motorcycle with him and proceeded to take it home and put it in a pallet in his chicken coop.

Welch said he kept the bike because it “seemed to new”.

Akers, who left the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation on October 31, 2012 and was the lead detective on the case against Hammer until that time, was the next to take the stand.

Akers testified he received a call that there was a “potential dead person” in Garvin County and there was someone that he needed to talk to, that person being Emblom.

After an interview that lasted approximately two hours it was decided that Akers should get a search warrant issued for the home of Hammer.

Around midnight on August 8, 2012 when the search warrant was executed, Akers stated that upon entering the residences he spotted what he believed to be blood on the loveseat, the metal threshold of the entry way, and other places throughout the house though one thing did surprise Akers about the amount of blood found.

“I thought there would be a lot more,” Akers stated.

Also found at that time in one of the burn barrels on the property were a pair of jeans, towels, underwear, a blue tarp, cowboy boots, and the package from a concrete mix; all partially burned.

In the Hammer’s gun safe a 410 shotgun and a 22 caliber pistol were found, both of the weapons believed to be used on Duran as well as orange latex gloves with a black residue, and two used reciprocating saw blades.

All evidence was taken to an OSBI lab in Edmond.

Akers then testified that Bobby Hammer, who owned the house and land that his son lived on, gave permission for the pond where the five buckets and a dog crate containing Duran’s remains were found to be searched on August 9, 2012.

According to Akers, searching the pond proved difficult even after draining it with an excavator and a dive team from Carter County was called in.

“As the pond was being drained the buckets would get pulled down into the mud and it was making them very hard to get to,” said Akers.

The search teams also used pallets to make a walkway on to the unstable ground to retrieve the buckets and dog crate.

In his testimony Akers also said the night of August 8, 2012 and day of August 9, 2012 weren’t the only times he returned to the property owned by the Hammers.

He was contacted on three other occasions by Bobby Hammer to come and collect items that Bobby believed could be evidence such as skill saw, two 22 casings, a towel, a metal plate possibly used for a motorcycle plate, and a used bottle of Twangers lemon lime salt that contained a sticky license plate backing that Akers believed could have been issued by the state of California, the state where Duran lived.

On cross-examination Haggerty again brought up the Banditos motorcycle club as Akers has a history of “gathering intelligence” on motorcycle gangs.

Akers said in his testimony that he did not know Duran to be a member of the organization but did know that he associated with some members.

Haggerty also questioned Akers on his communications with Emblom.

Akers testified that he had spoken to him on numerous undocumented occasions when Emblom would call him.

“More or less, I was trying to keep him calm,” said Akers.

“If I wrote a report every time I talked to [Emblom] there would be a substantial amount of reports.”

Though Akers left the stand, he has not been released and can still be called back for testimony.

Bradly Knight, an OSBI Crime Scene Investigator also took the stand Thursday, testifying about the scene he came upon when he arrived at the pond on the Hammer property August 9, 2012.

Knight’s testimony echoed that of Akers when it came to the scene that day but did give new details to as to how the five buckets containing Duran’s remains had been sealed.

“The buckets were sealed with their plastic seal but they also had drywall screws to secure them,” Knight stated.

According to Knight, each bucket had three to five of these screws.

Knight also shared that a cinderblock had been tied to the dog crate containing the torso of Duran, which had been cut in half at the belly button.

During Knight’s testimony, photos were shown of the five buckets and dog crate once they were fished from the pond.

Ace Hardware Manager John Law III was next on the stand, testifying that Hammer had in fact bought merchandise from his store the day before and the day of the crime and also shared that Justin Hammer used his Ace Rewards Card when he made the purchases.

“When someone uses their Reward Card for a purchase, their name, address, and phone number come up,” said Law.

At 8:05 on August 6, 2012 Justin Hammer bought ten eighty pound bags of ready mix concrete, five five-gallon buckets, and five lids for those buckets and paid with $80.00 cash.

The next day, August 7, 2012 at 12:06 Justin Hammer came back to the store and purchased large latex stripping gloves and a 96-ounce container of Clorox bleach, again paying with cash.

The clerk who checked out Justin Hammer on both occasions, Jessica Wimberly, testified that Hammer seemed normal on one of those trips, chatting with Wimberly about tattoos, and rushed on the other.

Footage from security cameras from those two days was entered into evidence but have yet to be viewed in the courtroom.

The trial of Justin Hammer is set to continue Monday, July 7 at 8:30 a.m.

 

Testimony in Hammer trial turns emotional

By Bonnie Seymour

News Star Reporter

Testimony in the trial against Justin Hammer took an emotional turn the afternoon of Wednesday, July 2 as Cynthia Wear, the mother of the deceased Brandon Duran took the stand for the prosecution.

Hammer is accused of murdering Duran in the first degree with four shots to the head and later dismembering and disposing of the body in a pond on his land.

Emotion ran over when Wear was shown a picture of her son by prosecutor Jennifer Austin and proceeded to kiss the picture, holding back tears in the process.

Most of Wear’s testimony on the stand pertained to her son’s relationship with Amber Andrews, who was once married to Duran and was in a relationship with Hammer around the time the crime took place.

Wear testified that in August of 2012 Duran and a son he shared with Andrews traveled from their home in California back to Oklahoma with Andrews.

“He said that they were going so [child’s name] could visit Amber’s family and that they were going to get back together.  He loved her,” said Wear.

Austin also showed Wear pictures of Duran’s motorcycle, truck, and wallet for identification.

Wear also informed the court that she was informed of her son’s death on August 9, 2012 by Duran’s grandmother, who identified his body using tattoos for verification.

Defense attorney Michael Haggerty then proceeded with a line of questioning that tried to tie Duran to the motorcycle club the Banditos by using pictures of him and his grandmother socializing with members, which was denied by Wear though she did state that Duran’s father was involved with the club after they were divorced.

Next on the stand was Aron Smith, a friend of Andrews for fifteen years.

Smith testified that she had seen Duran and Andrews the day of August 7, 2012 in Meeker at Andrews’ parents’ house and they seemed happy and calm until Andrews received a text message and informed Smith she had to leave for a doctor’s appointment.

At that time Andrews and Duran “left in a rush” and that was the last time Smith saw Duran but not the last time she saw Andrews.

“She came back to her parents’ house around 11:00 to pick up her son,” said Smith.

Andrews also returned Smith’s phone that she accidently rushed off with instead of her own.

Smith also stated that Andrews seemed like she had been fighting as her eyes were black and sunken in and her hair was messy.

The final witness for the day was Van Robert Emblom, who broke down in tears upon entering the witness stand.

When asked by Austin how he felt about being at the trial, Emblom would only reply that he was “not happy”.

Emblom’s testimony began with his history with Hammer, a history that began around thirteen years ago when the two met while attending school in Elmore City.

“I worked with his dad as well up until a couple months ago,” said Emblom.

Emblom testified that once Hammer was involved with Andrews he began to see changes in him.

“Amber said [Duran] was violent with her.  She would say all kinds of nasty, dirty things and it made [Hammer] angry,” Emblom told the court.

According to Emblom, Hammer had spoken of needing a “throw away” gun and asked to borrow buns that belonged to Emblom and Emblom father.

“He wanted something that couldn’t be traced back to him,” said Emblom.

Emblom also stated that Hammer bought a .22 in Jollyville.  That .22 was meant to be used by Emblom later to teach his kids how to use a gun and he planned on paying Hammer for it at a later date.

Austin’s questioning then turned to the day of the heinous crime.

Emblom said that he had received a phone call between 8:45 and 9:15 the night of August 7, 2012 and it was Hammer saying that he was coming to pick him up to hang out.

According to Emblom it didn’t take long for the evening to take a grizzly turn as he testified that Hammer immediately asked for his assistance.

“He said ‘I shot [Duran] and cut him up and you are going to help me get rid of it’,”.

He thought Hammer was joking until he saw five sealed buckets with blood and cement running down the sides in Hammer’s living room sitting on a towel.

“I started freaking out and I ran out of the house.”

During this time Emblom says that Hammer had started a fire and was burning a mop, chemical bottles, and some clothes.  He also threw in a motorcycle helmet believed to belong to Duran.

Emblom also testified that during this time Hammer was “cool, calm, and collected” which scared Emblom.

“I just wanted to go home,” said Emblom, tears streaming again.

Emblom did admit to helping carry two of the three buckets out of Hammer’s house and placing them in the back of Hammer’s truck and also assisted in carrying out a large square object covered in a blue canvas that he believed to be a crate of some sort that contained a human torso.

The cleanliness level of Hammer’s house that night was also discussed with Emblom informing the room that that house was “the cleanest place you could ever be”, smelling heavily of cleaning products.

On August 8, 2012 Emblom contacted a lawyer who helped him contact OSBI and after hours of talking assisted in the arrest of Hammer.

“They had me send a text message saying that I and my wife were fighting and that I needed to leave the house.  He said he would be right there.”

OSBI wanted to get Hammer out of the house and away from his guns for safety reasons.

On cross examination Haggerty began asking questions about Elblom’s character, including drug use and current and past paroles.

“Isn’t it true you didn’t want to be there that night because you were on parole and you didn’t want to get in trouble?” Haggerty asked.

“I didn’t want to be there because I knew something real bad had happened and I didn’t want to be a part of it,” Emblom replied.

Emblom is set to return to the stand Thursday, July 3 at 8:30 a.m. to continue cross-examination.

Hammer trial underway

By Jeff Shultz
and Bonnie Seymour
After two full days of jury selection, the Justin Hammer case got underway Wednesday morning at 10:30 in the Garvin County Courthouse.
Jury selection started Monday morning, June 30, and ended Tuesday evening, July 1, with a 4-woman, 8-man jury to decide Hammer’s fate.
Hammer, Elmore City, has been charged with the first-degree murder of Brandon Duran in August of 2012.
Hammer is accused of shooting Duran and dismembering his body in the bathtub in Hammer’s rural Elmore City home then disposing of the body in a nearby pond.
Prosecutor Tara Portillio led the state’s opening remarks against Hammer, telling the jury in her opening remarks the state will not be seeking the death penalty, but rather life in prison with no possibility of parole.
Portillio told jurors the state’s evidence will show that Hammer shot Duran in the face with a shot gun first and then shot him on the left side of his head three times with a .22 caliber gun.
Hammer then allegedly cut Duran up into 25 pieces, putting the remains in five buckets and a dog crate before dumping the remains in the pond.
Also expected to testify will be the medical examiner who will give evidence there were no hesitation marks on Duran’s remains, meaning Hammer showed no indecision in dismembering Duran’s body after shooting him.
Another witness for the state will be Van Robert Emblom, a friend of Hammer at the time of the murder.
Portillio told jurors Emblom will testify that Hammer seemed calm during the time he spent with the suspect on the day of the murder and that Hammer asked him to help dispose of the body.
Emblom, according to Portillio, will also tell the court that Hammer allegedly told him several days before the murder that if he did kill Duran he would plead self-defense.
During the defense’s opening remarks, defense attorney Michael Haggerty told jurors, “There’s a lot that the prosecution and defense agree on.  The state will have no problem proving Hammer did it beyond any reasonable doubt.”
According to the defense, Duran allegedly broke into Hammer’s residence on the day of the murder and Hammer was merely defending himself.
“Justin committed a felony but that felony is not murder,” Haggerty added.
Hammer also claims that Duran was a member of a motorcycle gang called the Banditos and that he was worried what the gang would do to him and his family and that is why he disposed of the body instead of reporting the break in.
According to Haggerty, the jury will get to hear from Hammer himself as he is expected to take the stand in his own defense.
Before breaking for lunch Wednesday, jurors heard from two witnesses for the state.
Brad Neal, Little Axe, told jurors he was a friend of Hammer and that Hammer warned him about his relationship with Amber Anders, a girl Hammer was seeing at the time of the murder.
Neal testified that Anders told him that Duran, who was the father of her child, was sending her pictures of engagement rings and she told Neal not to say anything to Hammer about it.
Also testifying Wednesday morning was Cindy Wilson, a Norman attorney who represented Duran in a child custody case involving Anders their child.
Wilson told the court that when Duran was awarded custody of the child in an earlier hearing, Hammer stood up in court and told Duran he “better watch his back.”
The News Star will have more on this story online at www.gcnews-star.com.

PV Kiwanis to host Fourth of July Spectacular

By Jeff Shultz 

Publisher

It will be a grand ole’ Fourth of July celebration this Friday in Pauls Valley when the Pauls Valley Kiwanis will host their annual Fourth of July Spectacular at Thompson Field in Wacker Park.

The highlight of each year’s celebration, of course, is the fireworks and this year’s fireworks display will be bigger and better than ever.

“The fireworks company we are using this year has told us our show will rival anything done in the metro area,” said Fourth Spectacular organizer Lorin Jacobson.

Jacobson said the Kiwanis has raised over $21,000 for this year’s fireworks display, the largest amount ever for the annual Independence Day show.

This year’s fireworks extravaganza will feature the traditional patriotic music as in year’s past, but the music portion will be electronically synchronized with the show.

“Also, the music will be broadcast over the radio frequency 87.9 FM. So, you can sit in your car and enjoy the fireworks and music together,” said Jacobson.

Prior to the grand fireworks show will be live entertainment, kids activities and plenty of food and drinks provided by the Kiwanis Club.

This year’s Watermelon Seed Spitting World Championship will mark the 57th year the international competition will be held in Pauls Valley.

Main Street Pauls Valley has taken the event back after a brief absence from hosting the event last year.

Below is a schedule for the July 4th show:

5:00 PM – Inflatables will open

5:30 PM – Registration begins for Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest

6:00 PM – Kiwanis will begin selling Hamburgers/Hotdogs/Popcorn

7:00 PM – Main Street Pauls Valley hosts the annual Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest

7:30 PM – Entertainment will begin

8:45 PM – Pre-Fireworks program begins

9:30 PM – Fireworks Display

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