Luyster trial: Bloody note from victim presented to jury

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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As Breanne Leigh choked on her own blood from a gunshot wound to her face, unable to speak, she hastily scribbled a bloody note identifying Brent Luyster as the shooter.

The note was a key piece of physical evidence presented to the jury Monday in Luyster’s triple aggravated murder trial in Clark County Superior Court.

Luyster is accused of fatally shooting Joseph Mark LaMar, 38; LaMar’s partner, Janell Renee Knight, 43; and Leigh’s partner, Zachary David Thompson, 36, on July 15, 2016, at LaMar’s home southeast of Woodland. Leigh was the only survivor.

About a dozen witnesses testified on behalf of the prosecution’s case Monday, including Clark County sheriff’s Deputy Bryce Smith, who said he met with Leigh at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver after she was shot.

Smith testified that Leigh was sitting upright, suffering a gunshot wound to her face, when she was wheeled into the trauma unit on a gurney. Doctors immediately began working on her injuries.

He wanted to get some information from Leigh, he said, but she couldn’t speak. She was responding to his questions with head nods and gestures, however. And she eventually began writing down her answers on scraps of paper and a tissue box.

Smith described being “amazingly impressed” by Leigh’s level of focus and attention, despite her injuries. He said she didn’t appear to be confused, intoxicated or impaired.

An emergency room doctor testified earlier in the day that Leigh had a blood-alcohol level of 0.109 when she arrived at the hospital.

Smith said that he felt he had a brief window of time to ask Leigh questions, because doctors wanted to recline her and start treating her injuries.

He first asked Leigh yes-or-no questions, to which she responded by nodding. Then she was given a marker, he said.

Smith asked her if anyone else was shot. She wrote that LaMar and Thompson may be injured. She indicated that she was outside when she was shot and lost consciousness. She wrote that Thompson is the father of her children, and she wanted someone to check on their children.

She wrote that she heard shots before she was shot. She asked if Thompson had been shot, and asked about her children again, Smith testified.

At one point, Leigh wrote, “Blood going down back throat now. Might be from leaning forward.” On another piece of paper she wrote, “2 men?”

She also wrote what appeared to be her height and weight, and medications she was taking. Smith said those answers were given in response to doctors.

Smith eventually asked Leigh if LaMar shot her. Leigh shook her head no. He then asked her if she knew who shot her, and she shook her head yes, he testified. Leigh wrote down Luyster’s name, though she misspelled his last name. The deputy then asked if Luyster was still at the scene. And Leigh wrote she was pretty sure he had left, he said.

On cross-examination, the defense pointed out that Leigh was responding to multiple questions from different people, and there’s no record of the questions Smith asked. He was purely going off his memory.

When questioned by the prosecution again, Smith said he did not have Luyster’s name before he started interviewing Leigh; she provided his name. He said he then shared Luyster’s name over the police radio as the shooting suspect.

Luyster’s trial resumes today as the prosecution’s case continues.