Goshen News, Goshen, IN

May 1, 2014

Jury deliberating in tattoo shop murder trial


THE GOSHEN NEWS

— GOSHEN — Jury deliberations have begun in the murder trial of Todd Stewart in Elkhart Circuit Court.

Elkhart County prosecutors allege that Stewart, 36, Bristol, shot and killed Mark Miller, 44, at Miller’s Dunlap tattoo shop on Sept. 7, 2012. Miller and Stewart worked together at the business.

Prosecutors said that after killing Miller, Stewart stuffed his body head-first into a 55-gallon barrel and dumped the barrel in the St. Joseph River. Men working to clear the river of logs found the sealed barrel containing Miller’s corpse near the Six Span Bridge Sept. 20, 2012.

The trial began Monday. Jurors heard testimony this week from witnesses including police investigators, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Miller’s body, and Miller’s sister and ex-wife. They also heard from a co-worker who said he was at the tattoo shop the night Stewart allegedly shot Miller.

Detective Jeremy Stout of the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department was the last witness called by prosecutors Thursday. Stout’s testimony centered on inconsistencies in Stewart’s statements to investigators. Portions of Stewart’s videotaped interviews with police were played for jurors.

Police questioned Stewart about purchases he made at the Goshen Meijer store early Saturday morning, Sept. 8, 2012.

“It was all food and drinks, that’s it,” Stewart told police. However, prosecutors had earlier presented Meijer store videotape showing Stewart also buying a handcart.

Stewart also told investigators he was driving a black Ford Explorer on Sept. 7. A witness who testified Wednesday, however, said Stewart had a Dodge pickup truck at the tattoo shop that day. He also testified there was a barrel in the back of the truck.

In her closing argument, defense attorney Michelle Voirol sought to discredit prosecution witness Matt Howard, calling him “a very good liar.” Howard, a former co-worker of Miller and Stewart, testified Wednesday he was at the tattoo shop the night Stewart shot Miller. He also said Stewart told him to help load the barrel containing Miller’s body into the back of Stewart’s truck. Howard indicated he felt intimidated by Stewart after the slaying.

Voirol pointed out inconsistencies in Howard’s statements. In early interviews with police, she said, Howard claimed to know nothing about the murder. She said that in the second interview, Howard began to put suspicion on Stewart.

Voirol also addressed Howard’s statements that he felt threatened by Stewart.

“What do you do when you’re scared? You go to the police,” Voirol told jurors. “They protect and serve.”

In her closing argument, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Vicki Becker highlighted the elements of Howard’s statements that were corroborated by evidence and other witnesses.

Stewart declined to testify at the trial.

At the end of attorneys’ closing arguments Thursday, jurors heard final instructions from Circuit Court Judge Terry Shewmaker. They left the courtroom to begin deliberations at 3:55 p.m.

Visit us online at www.goshennews.com and on Facebook for complete coverage of the trial conclusion.