Looking Down The Barrel: Unlocking The Truth Zeroes In On A Disputed Murder Weapon

The difference between a handgun and a rifle becomes crucial in the case of Byron Case

It would be easy to dismiss the testimony of Kelly Moffett — who accused her ex-boyfriend, Byron Case, of murdering Anastasia Witbolsfeugen years after offering police a different story — as that of a vengeful ex. But on tonight’s Unlocking The Truth, Ryan Ferguson and Eva Nagao investigated the reasons that caused some to believe Moffett may have been right on the money.

This much is certain: Witbolsfeugen, who was shot in the head sometime during the night of October 22, 1997, was with her friends Case, Moffett and her ex-boyfriend Justin Bruton. Case’s story is that Bruton and Witbolsfeugen proceeded to get into a fight, after which Bruton dropped off Moffett and Case at their respective homes. Case says it’s the last time he ever saw Bruton, who was found dead of a self-inflicted shotgun wound on October 25.

Witbolsfeugen’s body was discovered a couple of days earlier on October 23 at the corner of a cemetery’s plot. Police proceeded to wrestle with whether Bruton or Case was the killer until Case’s ultimate conviction.

Kathleen Zelner, who helped execute the final stages of Ferguson’s own exoneration, tried to provide the case with a pair of fresh eyes. She immediately responded to the possibility that Witbolsfeugen’s and Bruton’s deaths were a collective murder/suicide and said the bodies’ ultimate proximity to each other (one was discovered not far from the other) made for a solid jumping off point for investigating Bruton as a suspect. That Bruton had a history of suicide attempts and depression was also worth noting, she said.

Case’s attorney, Cyndy Short, pointed out the weapon used to kill Witbolsfeugen could be the case’s x-factor. Seven hours after Witbolsfeugen’s body was found, Bruton was seen buying the shotgun he’d used to kill himself at a place called The Bullet Hole. If he did, indeed, kill Witbolsfeugen, he would have had to have used a different weapon.

Short seemed convinced Witbolsfeugen was killed with a handgun, and Bruton’s father testified that his son was at a gun show a week before Witbolsfeugen’s death and could have very easily picked one up without a license. Ferguson theorized that Bruton could have ditched his original murder weapon before picking up the shotgun he’d use to end his own life.

It was only when Moffett changed her story three years after Witbolsfeugen’s death, and told police Case was responsible for Witbolsfeugen’s death, that police dropped Bruton as their primary suspect. Prosecution proceeded to ask Moffett for details about the murder weapon — she insisted Case used a long gun, which conflicted with police’s original estimation that the murder weapon was smaller.

Still, Thomas Young, the forensic pathologist who performed Witbolsfeugen’s autopsy, insisted that everything Moffett said was consistent with police’s assessment of the crime scene. He said the way the bullet tore through Witbolsfeugen’s face and “decimated” her brain validated Moffett’s claim that Witbolsfeugen was shot at point-blank range. Still, it didn’t verify whether the weapon used was a handgun or a rifle.

Firearms expert Don Pind, on the other hand, made up his mind that Witbolsfeugen was killed with a handgun. Ferguson and Nagao showed Pind a picture of a stray lead bullet police found in Witbolsfeugen’s hair at the crime scene, and Pind said bullets that are deployed by long guns have copper jackets and shell casings around them. The bullet in question, he pointed out, had neither. He said it was possible that the jacket disappeared after being fired but argued police would have likely found it at some point.

Still, ballistics expert Matt Noedel said the copper jacket theory didn’t necessarily hold water. He told Ferguson and Nagao that there are, indeed, types of long guns that fire bullets that aren’t wrapped in shell casings. Still, after recreating a three-dimensional model of Witbolsfeugen’s murder scene, he observed that Moffett’s statement was certainly plausible.

The new insights aside, Ferguson, who was jailed for a decade because of a false witness’ testimony, maintained his doubts about Moffett, especially because Young had been so willing to accept her story as fact.

What do you think: Is Young correct to place faith in Moffet’s testimony, and do you think Case is the real culprit? Or is Ferguson right to have doubts, and is Bruton the likeliest murderer? Share your thoughts, and be sure to tune in to the next Unlocking The Truth next Wednesday at 11/10c!