DNA, forensic evidence becomes focus in 2014 triple homicide trial

DNA, forensic evidence becomes focus in 2014 triple homicide trial

September 22nd, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Breaking News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 5/28/14. Derek Morse, 19, middle and Skylar Allen, 22, right, sit in Judge Christie Mahn Sell's courtroom while having their case bound over to the grand jury both being charged in the April 9 triple murder in Lookout Valley.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

It's the experts' turn today in the trial of Derek Morse, a 23-year-old man charged with first-degree murder in the 2014 Lookout Valley triple homicide.

Prosecutors called two agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to explain some of the forensic evidence collected from the April 9, 2014, slayings of Caleb Boozer, John Lang and Jon Morris.
These agents received DNA samples from Morse and his alleged co-conspirators, Skyler Allen and Jacob Allison, and checked to see if any of it was on three alleged murder weapons.

Many factors can ruin a DNA sample, such as dirt or weather. But as defense attorney Dan Ripper pointed out, none of his client's DNA was on the guns.

There's a dense network of people involved in the case.

Prosecutors believe Allison drove Morse and Allen to a motor home lot on Kellys Ferry Road. Then, Morse and Allen opened fire, killing everyone except then 16-year-old Matthew Callan.

Authorities found the alleged murder weapons, a rifle and two handguns, after Allison's half-brother, Michael Shavers, told them they were hidden in the woods off Interstate 24.

Defense attorneys have previously questioned Shavers' motivation for revealing the weapons, pointing to a pending attempted first-degree murder case he has in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

And Ripper took aim at Shavers earlier this week, too.

When prosecutors showed a picture of Morse and Shavers walking out of a Walmart around 4 p.m. the day of the homicide, Ripper told jurors to pay attention to their clothing.

His client, Morse, was wearing lighter-colored clothing while Shavers was dressed in darker clothing. So far, no witness described any of the shooters as wearing lighter clothing, Ripper said yesterday.

Authorities collected Morse's clothes on April 10, later sending them to the TBI for gunshot residue testing. That analysis can help determine if someone was near a discharged firearm.

According to today's testimony, those items tested positive.

The trial resumed today around 2 p.m. after jurors return from a lunch break.

This is a developing story. Please check back later for more information.