Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Attorney admits client shot youths

Santistevan to take stand to make self-defense case

Express Staff Writer

David L. Santistevan

In his trial for attempted-murder, Bellevue resident David L. Santistevan will take the stand this week to try to convince jurors he acted out of self-defense when he shot two Bellevue teenagers in March.

Many of the facts about the case are not disputed, said defense attorney Keith Roark. In fact, during opening arguments Tuesday morning, defense and prosecuting attorneys outlined roughly the same sequence of events that led to Santistevan's arrest. It appears the trial could test jurors' perspectives about defense and prosecution interpretations of those facts.

During his opening remarks, Blaine County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Justin Whatcott painted Santistevan as a cold, unfeeling killer whose only failure on March 29, 2004, was not successfully disposing of his victims.

"While (his victims) were fighting for their lives, the defendant went home, called up a neighbor for some late-night sex, had a cup of tea and went to bed," Whatcott said. "When he was contacted, the defendant told the police he had no clue what had happened behind the Silver Dollar Saloon the night before. He said he had not been there in months.

"We realize that we have the burden of proving to you beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of these crimes," Whatcott continued. "That is a burden we welcome and a burden we will meet. The evidence will show overwhelmingly that the truth is that the defendant committed these crimes and that he tried to cover them up."

For defense attorneys the yarn is spun the other way.

Roark said Santistevan suffers from symptoms of acute stress disorder and when confronted by the imposing 6-foot-4-inch figure of Marshall Hooten, one of his victims, he acted to protect himself.

"David Santistevan did not go looking for anyone on that night. He did not have any intention or desire to confront or injure anybody," Roark said.

Roark said evidence would prove Hooten had been drinking and had been using illegal metamphetamines on the day of the crime.

"The evidence would show it wasn't David Santistevan who sought out Marshall Hooten, but the other way around," Roark said.

"We're not going to play cute with you folks," Roark continued. "Shots were fired by David Santistevan, no question about it. He did not call 911. He didn't call the police. He didn't call the sheriff's office. He drove around, eventually found his way home.

"In his panic, in his fear, in his irrational state of mind, he took that gun, disassembled it and any ammunition he could find and disposed of it in that field (along Gannett Road). He did that. There's no doubt about it."

Santistevan, 47, is charged with two counts of attempted murder, one for shooting Hooten, then 19, in the abdomen and another for shooting Bellevue teen Tyrel Peak, then 15, in his left buttock. Hooten spent five months in the hospital recovering from life threatening injuries, and he is expected to testify during the trial. Though Peak's hospital visit lasted only a few weeks, he underwent surgery to overcome his injuries. Peak testified Tuesday morning.

Santistevan was arrested on March 30 and has been incarcerated in the Blaine County Jail in lieu of a $1 million bond. His trial began Monday with jury selection. Opening statements by prosecuting and defense attorneys began Tuesday morning.

According to opening remarks by Whatcott, Peak and Hooten were riding a four-wheeler along Second Street in Bellevue when they had their first of two encounters with Santistevan on March 29. The young men and Santistevan were heading opposite directions, and when they encountered each other, Santistevan got out of his car and the three exchanged insults.

This is one of the places defense and prosecution stories diverge. According to Whatcott, the boys chanced upon Santistivan again in the alley behind the Silver Dollar Saloon where Santistevan was writing in a day planner and journal. According to Roark, the boys went looking for Santistevan, eventually finding him behind the Silver Dollar.

In either case, when Peak and Hooten came across Santistevan, Hooten asked Peak to stop the four-wheeler so he could approach the man. He walked to within four or five feet of Santistevan, Peak said from the stand during testimony Tuesday afternoon.

"Marshall said, 'What the hell is your problem, dude?' " Peak said. "The defendant said, 'You better get the f... out of here or I'm going to f... shoot you.' Marshal kind of said, 'Do it.' (with his arms out to the side)."

According to Peak, Santistevan pulled out a handgun (a 9 mm KBI), cocked it and, holding the weapon with two hands, shot between Hooten's legs. A couple of seconds later, Santistevan fired another shot into Hooten's chest.

"Marshall froze after the first shot," Peak said. "He didn't know what to do."

But the ordeal wasn't over.

Peak, who was still sitting on the four-wheeler, turned around to leave but wanted to help his friend. When he turned to call Hooten's name, he said he saw Santistevan turn the weapon toward him.

"I turned around and grabbed the handlebars to leave," Peak said. "I felt a sharp pain in my leg. I grabbed it like this and pushed down. I grabbed the handlebars and took off."

In this trial, prosecution and defense attorneys have compiled lists including 77 names of potential witnesses. Some names are repeated on both lists. The way the trial works is for prosecutors to first make their case. Whatcott and Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas will call witnesses and build their case to the jury for the first several days.

The second phase of the trial will be when Roark and defense attorney Doug Nelson begin to build their case. The trial is scheduled to last through Dec. 15.

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