Prosecution, defense rest in Niles double murder trial

Published 3:47 pm Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sherry Lintz testifies Thursday for the defense. Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Sherry Lintz testifies Thursday for the defense. Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

CASSOPOLIS — A verdict could be returned as early as Friday morning in the trial of a Niles man accused of killing Niles couple John and Carolyn Tarwacki in February 2010.

Keith James Lintz, 29, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. The Tarwackis were found shot and stabbed in their Howard Township home Feb. 5, 2010.

The prosecution and defense both rested their cases on the seventh day of trial Thursday in Cass County Circuit Court.

It was a busy day that began with Judge Michael Dodge denying defense attorney Greg Feldman’s request for a mistrial. Feldman argued that he wasn’t given in a timely manner a report obtained by the prosecution about a hair sample found in a footprint in the snow located outside the Tarwacki’s home.

Dodge ruled it did not cause significant enough damage to the defense’s case to warrant a mistrial. Through DNA analysis, the hair sample was not a match to Lintz’s DNA. The report was placed into evidence.

Immediately after Dodge’s ruling, Special Prosecutor Doug Baker, of the state attorney general’s office, rested the case for the prosecution.

The defense called three witnesses before also resting its case: the defendant’s mother, Sherry Lintz; the defendant’s half-brother, Brian Jacobs; and Karri Jankoviak, a woman who saw someone in the vicinity of the Tarwacki’s home on the morning of the murders.

Police believe the Tarwacki’s were murdered sometime between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. Feb. 5.

Sherry testified she picked up Keith from work at the Mishawaka, Ind., Wal-Mart around 11:30 p.m. Feb. 4 and returned to her apartment on Carberry Road — the same road on which the Tarwacki’s lived — around midnight.

Sherry said she went to sleep while Keith remained awake talking to another woman in the house. Jacobs was also at Sherry’s apartment, but Sherry said he was asleep when she and Keith arrived.

Sherry said she woke up at around 5:30 a.m. Feb. 5 to get ready to start her shift at a Mishawaka restaurant. She said Keith was still asleep when she left the apartment around 6:25 a.m., and that no partying occurred at the apartment that night.

Sherry said the next time she saw Keith was at around 8 p.m. later that day. He showed up at her apartment alone and wearing the same clothes — a short sleeved polo Wal-Mart uniform — that he was wearing when she picked him up from work the night before. Sherry said he did not change his clothes and was not wearing a jacket, despite the cold February weather. Sherry also said Keith was acting “fine” and didn’t have any scratches or blood on his clothes.

Earlier in the trial, several state witnesses said they saw a male subject leaving the scene wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.

When cross-examined by Baker, Sherry said she couldn’t say for certain where Keith was between the hours of 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. Feb. 5.

Jacobs testified that he woke up between 9 and 10 a.m. Feb. 5 to find Keith asleep in Sherry’s apartment. Jacobs said Keith was wearing a short-sleeved Wal-Mart uniform when he woke him up to go to a nearby gas station to buy beer. Jacobs then testified that they both went to a friend’s place and drank alcohol all day.

During cross-examination, Jacobs said he didn’t know for sure where Keith was between 6:30 and 8 a.m. Feb. 5.

The jury also heard Jankoviak testify she was driving east on Yankee Road near Carberry Road when she saw a white male walking toward her on the south side of Yankee around 7:15 a.m. Feb. 5. Jankoviak said the man was wearing a red coat, jeans and something on his head, maybe a hat or a hoodie. She helped police come up with a sketch of the subject, but said the sketch doesn’t look exactly like the man she saw. The prosecution, nor the defense, asked Jankoviak if Lintz looked like the man she saw walking on the road that morning.

Dodge let the jury go home in the early afternoon Thursday.

Closing arguments are expected to begin at around 9:30 a.m. Friday. After that, the case will be handed to the jury.

Catch up on the rest of the trial:
Day 6: Defense seeks mistrial in Niles double homicide case
Day 5: Lintz: State is “too stupid” to catch me
Day 4: Cellmate: Lintz made tearful admission to killing Tarwackis
Day 3: Ex-girlfriend: Lintz implicated himself in Tarwacki murders
Day 2: Witness: Lintz worried about footprints in snow
Day 1: Prosecutor: Tarwackis died in robbery gone wrong