Courier Staff Writer
OTTUMWA — For the first time, the court heard Bruce Pollard give his account of what happened the night Kenneth McDaniel was murdered.
Pollard, 26, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the death of Cinema X manager McDaniel on March 11, 2012. His body was discovered two days later.
On Friday, the court listened to audio of two interviews Pollard had with Ottumwa Investigator Steve Harris.
During the second interview on March 19, 2012, Pollard said he gave McDaniel $5 to watch a movie. During the autopsy, two loose $5 bills were found in McDaniel's chest pocket.
"I was in the back of the theater," Pollard said. "He [McDaniel] comes back and sits next to me. ...I felt something on my leg, man!"
That's when Pollard tried to escape, he said. But when he tried to push the front door, it was locked. That was corroborated by McDaniel's friend, Marlin Ray Hesse, who tried to enter the theater at 6 p.m. but was unable because the door was locked.
"I reached for the crowbar in my pocket and I turned around and he's right there," Pollard said, which was when he said he hit McDaniel over the head. "I had no intention of killing him. We was on the ground, wrasslin' for a few minutes, something like that, and then ... he was dead."
During the interview, Pollard also admits to throwing some DVDs in a black bag, unlocking the door and walking to the Promise Center, where he stashed everything in the center's "top deck." He also said he had been sexually abused as a child, that he had mental disorders and he called McDaniel a "pervert."
He was laid-back and "prepared with what he was going to tell me" during his second interview, Harris said, compared to the first interview three days prior when Pollard seemed "very anxious."
During the first interview, Harris asked him if he acted in self defense that night. Why would Harris do that? asked defense attorney Allen Cook.
"I try to make them feel comfortable to get them to talk to me about it," Harris said. "In this, I suggested self defense as a way of making it easier for Bruce to talk. I want as many statements as I can get so I can compare them with physical evidence, video, other witness accounts. I layer all the layers on top of each other to determine what's true and what's not."
Shortly after the first interview, Pollard jumped from the second story balcony in the Wapello County Jail in what's been described as a suicide attempt.
The court also viewed Bridge City Appliance's surveillance video from March 11, 2012. The store is located two doors west of Cinema X.
Pollard could be seen walking by at the same time he is seen walking past the store on the city's downtown video cameras. In the video he is wearing exactly what he described during his second interview with police: a polo shirt, blue t-shirt, coat and stocking cap.
When Pollard is seen walking the opposite direction around 20 minutes later, a black trash bag is slung over his shoulder and he's "walking in the direction of the Promise Center," Harris said.
While watching video from the city's downtown cameras the day of McDaniel's murder, the court watched Pollard walk in and out of Cinema X at 5:52 p.m. and 6:12 p.m., respectively.
At 8:27 p.m., when the fluorescent light was on (indicating that the theater was open), an unidentified person walks up to the theater and leaves seconds later. The next day, another unidentified person is seen walking up to the theater and leaving soon after.
This became a sticking point for the defense, who asked Harris why more effort wasn't put in to finding the two unidentified individuals.
"On April 13, 2012, did you not tell Investigator Ruben Ross that now that Bruce Pollard had confessed, it was no longer necessary to find the individuals in the vehicles?" Cook asked. That's correct, Harris said.
It was determined that the unidentified vehicles had nothing to do with the homicide, he said, so police stopped looking.
But when that first person walked up to the theater two hours after Pollard left, "we know the door was unlocked," Cook said, "so by all indications, that person would have seen the body."
The court also viewed photos of abrasions and burns to Pollard's head, taken the week following the murder. But, said prosecutor Scott Brown, there is no way to know exactly how those injuries happened, therefore they cannot definitively be connected to an altercation with McDaniel.
McDaniel's injuries were "by far the worst injuries I've ever seen to a throat," Harris said.
The state rested its case and Judge Lucy Gamon said Monday will likely be the last day of evidence, followed by jury deliberation.
Cook made a motion to acquit Pollard on the basis that prosecutors had not generated enough evidence to "overcome the burden ... that [Pollard] was not acting in self defense." But that motion was overruled and the trial will continue at 9 a.m. Monday.