It was one of the bloodiest murder scenes prosecutors had seen.
Four robbers rushed into a marijuana dealer’s basement in South Omaha. The man defended himself, trying to fend off the robbers with a chair. They pistol-whipped him, then shot him in the neck.
The wounded man staggered up the steps, coughing up blood, before falling back to the landing below.
In his wake: blood.
“There’s blood on the steps,” prosecutor Matt Kuhse said Thursday. “Blood in the trash can. Blood in the area where his body comes to a rest and he eventually dies.”
The question this week and next: Who was responsible for that bloodshed?
Prosecutors say Ryan Elseman, 20, is guilty of first-degree murder and weapon use in the July 6, 2011, shooting death of Kristopher Winters, 25.
Kuhse told jurors that Elseman was the gunman who shot Winters when chaos broke out in the basement of Winters’ home near 51st and U Streets.
One co-defendant will testify that Elseman shot Winters. Another — Emily Gusman, who was arrested with the victim’s blood on her clothing — will testify that Elseman helped cook up the robbery plot. Plus, Kuhse said, Elseman’s palm print is on the getaway car.
Defense attorney Don Schense asked jurors to scrutinize the purported evidence against Elseman, the first of three defendants expected to go on trial over the next two months.
Schense noted that the codefendants are hoping for sharply reduced charges. Drake Northrop has testified he hopes to have his charges reduced from murder to being an accessory. And Gusman, now 16, said she hopes to have her case transferred to juvenile court.
Schense said he wasn’t willing to concede that the palm print matches Elseman’s prints. But even if it does, Schense said, testimony will show that Elseman had been around that car before the day of the robbery.
He also noted that Winters’ mother described all the robbers as black and yelled a racial epithet at them as they fled. Elseman is white.
“You’ll have to ask yourselves ‘Is this evidence of such great weight that I would rely on it?’” Schense told jurors. “The evidence will not carry you over that bridge. You may go back to the jury room having more questions than answers.”
Earlier, Kuhse had taken jurors through a state law that holds those involved accountable for murder if someone dies during the commission of a robbery. Kuhse said there was no question that Gusman and four young men set out to rob Winters that day.
Prosecutors are not saying the group “went over there intending to kill Kristopher Winters,” Kuhse said. “They did intend on robbing him. They also intended on Kristopher Winters not putting up a fight. ... This case is about a robbery gone bad. This case is about five people who made bad decisions.”
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