September 30, 2014

Pinconning murder trial begins with opening arguments, testimony

Tim Barnum
Peter Heagany, right, has a discussion with a member of the defense team during a recess during the trial.
Posted

BAY CITY — The defense and prosecution delivered opening arguments Aug. 27 in the jury trial of Peter Heagany, a 27-year-old Pinconning Township man charged with open murder after allegedly shooting his roommate Brian Charbonneau in February.

Bay County Assistant Prosecutor Nancy Borushko said Heagany’s actions were premeditated when she addressed the 14-person jury during her opening argument. Borushko said Heagany and Charbonneau knew each other for many years and were a couple, when Heagany became involved with a woman.

Borushko said Heagany wanted to get Charbonneau out of his life so there was no one who could tell the details of their relationship.

“He has to get rid of Brian,” she said. “He needs to silence him.”

According to Borushko, Heagany, whose attorney Matthew Reyes argued shot Charbonneau in self-defense, changed his story about the night of Feb 8 multiple times. She said he continued to leave out one detail — his relationship he formed with the woman, and how that caused the need to get Charbonneau out of his life.

“There was a time frame and Brian had to be gone,” she said.

Borushko said Heagany and the woman shared a bond over drugs and pills, and that the argument that the shooting was done in self-defense lacked evidence.

“He tells the story of an attack made on him by Brian,” she said. “The evidence will show you that Pete Heagany doesn’t have any injuries.”

Borushko said evidence would show Heagany also waited five or six hours before calling 911 after the shooting.

When Borushko concluded her argument, Reyes addressed the jury. According to Reyes, Charbonneau and Heagany were friends in high school and at first the relationship was similar to most high school friendships. Eventually, the two moved in together and their relationship grew closer, Reyes said.

“They started establishing a bond,” he said. “They started establishing a care, a relationship that goes beyond just buddies.”

Reyes said Heagany felt the two were in a “bi-sexual relationship,” while Charbonneau felt the two were together. Over time, alcoholism and domestic abuse caused issues in the relationship, Reyes said. He told the jury that friends would attest that Heagany was gentle and docile, unlike Charbonneau.

“Each of them used the term ‘raging’ independent of each other,” he said.

Prior to the shooting, Reyes said Heagany had begun exploring a relationship with the woman Borushko mentioned, and planned to tell Charbonneau about it Feb. 8. Instead, Reyes said Heagany drove Charbonneau to two bars before they returned home, which is when the defense alleged Charbonneau started to assault Heagany. Reyes said Charbonneau shoved him in the face and threw a decorative rock and a baton at him.

“He recedes,” Reyes said. “He goes back into his room. He puts a chair against the door.”

Reyes said Charbonneau was attempting to smash through the door with a ballpeen hammer, when Heagany grabbed Charbonneau’s 12-gauge shotgun in the bedroom.

“The evidence will show that a 240-pound man, five inches taller, 105 pounds heavier, is smashing through the door that Pete has barricaded shut,” he said.

Reyes said Heagany told him he had no other option.

“He said, ‘I just pointed the gun and pulled the trigger,’” Reyes said.

After the shooting, Reyes said Heagany was in a panic, that dogs in the house were going crazy and he was searching for a phone — believing the Charbonneau smashed both his and Heagany’s — before blacking out for more than five hours. Upon waking, he called his mother and then 911, Reyes said.

Upon concluding the opening arguments, Borushko started calling witnesses — the majority being employed by the Michigan State Police in some capacity.

Her first witness, Keith LaMont, is a trace evidence analyst for the MSP’s Bridgeport forensics laboratory. More than 90 photos taken by LaMont were shown on a slide projector in the courtroom, including photos of Charbonneau’s body in the bedroom where the shooting occurred.

Photos in and around the bedroom showed what were described by LaMont frequently as red/brown stains or possible blood stains. The stains or drops were present on clothing, the floor of the bedroom and on a corner of the bed. LaMont said he did not recall seeing the stains in the hallway leading into the bedroom. LaMont said swabs of some of the stains were collected for analysis.

LaMont’s photos showed many angles of the inside and outside of the house the bedroom door that Charbonneau was allegedly attempting to break through, which showed two indentations.

MSP Trooper Ruth Osborne, who works out of the department’s Tri-City Post, was also called to the stand, and showed photos of an autopsy performed on Charbonneau. Photos showed the hole on his chest where the bullet entered his body. Pieces of bullet were also recovered during the autopsy, Osborne said.

Monica Bugeja, of the MSP’s toxicology unit in its Lansing crime lab, said her report showed Chrabonneau had an average alcohol contact of 0.176 percent, according to her two readings.

Witnesses also reported on forensics reports regarding drugs in Charbonneau and alcohol in Heagany, both of which were negative. Samantha Beauchamp of the MSP’s lab in Lansing said Heagany did have THC — the active component of marijuana — in his system according to her report.

Keith Killey, a paramedic with McLaren Bay Region, said he was dispatched to the scene of the shooting Feb. 8 and examined both Heagany’s and Charbonneau’s bodies. He said he did not see any injuries to Heagany.

“When they got him out of the police car I started at the top of his head,” Killey said. “He said he had some pain in his head and I worked my way down to his waist and did not find anything.”

Kenneth Binder, of the MSP Bridgeport lab’s latent fingerprint unit, said he attempted to recover latent prints on a decorative rock, baton, shotgun, shells and ballpeen hammer seized from the scene.

Many of the items showed ridge structure — meaning they displayed ridges from fingerprints — but not enough ridges for a comparison to be made to another potential print for identification.

DNA samples were also discussed briefly. David Bicigo of the Bridgeport laboratory said the aforementioned agate rock, baton, shotgun and shells and ballpeen hammer were swabbed for DNA, as well as some items of clothing in the bedroom.

Prior to being dismissed, Reyes was given the opportunity to cross examine all of the witnesses called by the prosecution.

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