Judge sets deadline in Hillside Laundry murder trial
It's been nearly two years since Terence Leon Callender was accused of cold-bloodedly shooting 64-year-old James A. Peterson to death outside the Hillside Laundry in an argument over $20 and a face slap, but the case moved a step closer to trial ...
It's been nearly two years since Terence Leon Callender was accused of cold-bloodedly shooting 64-year-old James A. Peterson to death outside the Hillside Laundry in an argument over $20 and a face slap, but the case moved a step closer to trial Monday when a judge imposed a deadline for submitting pretrial motions.
Callender, 48, was indicted in September 2008 on a charge of first-degree premeditated murder in the July 29, 2008, slaying of Peterson, who was caretaker of the Hillside Laundry, 103 W. Fourth St. The victim also worked for Senior Friend Home Care in Duluth, where he made daily visits with clients requiring in-home assistance.
Sixth Judicial District Judge David Johnson gave defense attorneys K. Scott Belfry and J.D. Schmid and St. Louis County prosecutor James Nephew until Aug. 17 to inform the court what issues remain to be settled before scheduling a trial.
The case has been delayed for several reasons: a change in defense attorneys, an appeal of the grand jury indictment -- which was denied by the Minnesota Court of Appeals -- and because of the difficulty the defense has had receiving the prosecution's forensic evidence, specifically gunshot residue tests and methods of testing from a laboratory in San Antonio, Texas. Belfry wants to be able to provide that information to the defense team's consultants for their analysis.
"First-degree homicide cases are always very lengthy and they should be very lengthy because the consequences are so severe," Belfry said outside the courtroom after the hearing. "They do take time to run through the system so two years is not unusual."
The defense is challenging gunshot residue purportedly found on the defendant.
"We requested the gunshot residue information from Bexar County Texas in September of 2009 and we just got it today," Belfry said. "The issue is does it have relevance in this case? Because, frankly, any legitimate person that deals with gunshot residue will tell you that you can pick it up in the environment very easily. It never deteriorates. For example, if you were a buddy of a police officer and he was just two days ago at the firing range wearing clothing that he fired with, the likelihood of you getting gunshot residue is quite great."
Peterson's body was found in the doorway of the laundry. A medical examiner determined that he had been shot three times. The first shot struck Peterson in the head, perforating his carotid artery. The next two shots passed through his lungs.
The medical examiner said the first shot to the face would have put the victim on the ground, and it was highly unlikely that he could have survived that first shot even with immediate medical attention, the criminal complaint said.
Callender was arrested without incident about two hours later in the vicinity of Fourth Street and Fourth Avenue East. The .38 Special revolver believed to be used in the shooting was recovered later.
According to the complaint, Callender talked to two people near Second Avenue East and First Street and they said he admitted to killing someone at the Laundromat. They said Callender said he had gotten into a silly argument with the victim over $20 and the victim had slapped him, the complaint said.
"The defendant said that he went to his apartment at 107 W. Fourth St. [next to the victim's apartment], retrieved a handgun, went back downstairs, returned to the Laundromat and shot the victim," the complaint said.
The two witnesses also told police that Callender had ridden a bicycle to their location, was wearing gloves and had a handgun with him, the complaint said. Police recovered the revolver, one glove and the bicycle.
Callender is being held in the St. Louis County Jail on $500,000 bail.