Jury expected to begin deliberations on Wednesday
The first-degree murder trial of Robert Dean Penny entered the second day Tuesday. Penny is accused of shooting his 71-year-old landlord Chester Raymond Hornowski more than 20 times during what authorities say was an argument about a noise complaint.
Penny, through his defense attorney Sam Pasthing, is arguing Penny shot Hornowski in self-defense.
Monday’s testimony ended with law enforcement officers, all from the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office, testifying. Sgt. Doug Meurer told the jury that shortly after he arrived, Penny drove his truck directly towards him.
Meurer told the jury as he dodged out of the way of Penny’s truck, he fired four shots at the fleeing truck. Three others, Sheriff John Montgomery, Lt. Rick Lucy and Sgt. Brian Davis all testified Penny’s truck was accelerating as it drove towards Sgt. Meurer. Lucy told the jury he fired his rifle at the fleeing truck.
The second day of the trial saw more law enforcement officers take the stand to testify. First up was Lt. Ralph Bird of the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office. Bird told the jury he went to the scene accompanied by Sgt. Lee Sanders.
When he arrived, Bird told the jury it was just a few moments before he saw Penny launch his truck into the air and slam into the sheriff’s Chevrolet Tahoe. Penny was taken into custody and Bird said he and Sanders then moved to clear the house.
Once inside, they found Hornowski’s body. They moved on clearing the home until they came to a locked bedroom door, Penny’s bedroom. Bird told the jurors it took nine tries before he was able to kick down the locked door.
Once inside Penny’s bedroom they found a pistol and two magazines. Bird also told the jury Sheriff Montgomery’s SUV was essentially brand new when Penny crashed into it, causing $19,995.95 in damage.
Sanders was next to testify, his testimony essentially mirroring Bird’s testimony. Next, two special agents with the Arkansas State Police testified, Jackie Stinnett and Dennis Simons. The two lawmen told the jury Stinnett photographed the crime scene.
Scott Thrasher, an investigator with the BCSO was next to testify. Thrasher told the jury he is responsible for keeping track of evidence collected by the BCSO during criminal investigations.
David Ethredge, 14th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney, had Thrasher present to the jury many items of evidence collected from the crime scene. Thrasher showed the jury the shirt Hornowski was wearing of the day he was shot to death.
The shirt contained multiple bullet holes. A cell phone identified as Hornwoski’s also had bullet holes in it. Thrasher also showed the jury a Smith & Wesson 9mm identified as belonging to Penny and identified by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory as the weapon used in Hornowski’s shooting.
Next to testify was Dr. Steven Erickson, the forensic pathologist from the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory who performed the forensic autopsy on Hornowski. Erickson told the jury Hornowski died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Erickson told the jury he discovered 26 gunshot wounds on Hornowski’s body. Erickson said there were gunshot wounds stretching from Hornowski’s nose down to the bottom of one of his feet. Erickson also spoke to the path some of the other bullets.
The forensic pathologist told the jury some of the gunshots created more than one wound as they passed through various parts of Hornowski’s body.
Ethredge next called BCSO investigator Brad Hurst to the stand. Hurst told the jury he, Stinnett and Simons interviewed Penny. Ethredge then played a video recording of the interview for the jury.
During that interview, Penny told the investigators his version of what happened. Penny said he was doing his physical therapy exercises the morning of the shooting when he heard Hornowski yelling. He went out to see what was going on and encountered Hornowski, who yelled at him and hit him three or four times.
Then, the two men separated. Penny said Hornowski came at him a second time with his face red and fists up. At that point, Penny said he “emptied” his pistol into Hornowski.
Then, he went back to his room, reloaded his pistol and went back out to confront the witnesses to see if they were going to hurt him. When they left, he walked over to Hornowski’s body and shot him four more times.
“I was pissed at him for ruining my life,” Penny said. “So I shot him four more times. I knew he was dead, you put 18 rounds into someone and you know they’re dead.”
Other witnesses testified Hornoski was going to kick Penny out of the rental home and that’s what set off the argument between the two men. Penny said the argument centered around him, Penny, telling Hornowski he couldn’t work because he was injured.
After presenting the video recording of the interview, Ethredge once again asked Hurst if Hurst saw any injuries on Penny. Hurst said Penny’s only injury was one above his left eye he received when he crashed his truck.
The state then rested their case. Pasthing asked the judge for a directed verdict on all counts against Penny, saying the state had not provided evidence sufficient to convict penny on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated assault and criminal mischief.
Baxter County Circuit Court Judge Gordon Webb denied the motion.
Following the state resting its case, the defense informed the judge it would not be calling any witnesses. Under oath, Penny told the judge his testimony would be the same as the interview he gave to investigators.
Judge Webb then dismissed the jury for the day. Once the jury left, the attorneys discussed the instructions Judge Webb will give the jury before they begin their expected deliberations Wednesday morning.
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