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Defense rests in murder trial

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Posted: Friday, April 8, 2011 12:00 pm

By Philip Jankowski

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON - Testimony ended Thursday in the capital murder trial of three people accused of killing a Fort Hood soldier in 2008 in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme to collect a $100,000 life insurance policy.

Closing arguments are expected to begin today in 264th District Court.

The defense teams for co-defendants John Anthony Valdez Jr., 26, and Kathryn Nellie Briggs, 28, did not call any witnesses.

There was some speculation that defendant Kyle Moesch, 26, might take the stand when defense attorney Stephen Blythe told the court he intended to call witnesses.

After a long break and consultation with his client, Blythe called Moesch's aunt, Debbie Petcka, to the stand.

Petcka indicated that Moesch and his extended family believed their lives might be in danger if they cooperated with authorities.

"We were concerned about hearing that our own safety was in jeopardy," Petcka testified, noting that Moesch had told them they may be targeted by the people who had carried out the "hit" on Staff Sgt. Ryan Michael Sullivan, a squadron leader in Moesch's and Valdez' unit and a former boyfriend of Briggs.

Petcka didn't tell the court who might be threatening Moesch's family. After Blythe finished questioning her, prosecuting attorney Murff Bledsoe had no questions for the witness.

Last week, Jeremy Jacobs testified that Valdez had solicited Moesch and him to help carry out the "hit" on Sullivan. Jacobs testified that after receiving no response, Valdez threatened them.

The trial included the testimony of more than 30 witnesses and 370 pieces of evidence.

The final witness for the prosecution Thursday was Dustin Deutsch, a cellphone records expert and a police officer with the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Deutsch reenforced testimony given Wednesday by Bell County District Attorney's Office Criminal Investigator Bill Curry that connected Briggs to a woman named Airianna Benitez, who the prosecution claims is Briggs.

Deutsch showed how phones associated with Briggs and Benitez traveled from Austin to Cincinnati and Atlanta at the same time. He said that nearly one half of all calls sent and received by Benitez' phone were made from Briggs' home.

He also said the communications among Briggs, Moesch and Valdez increased leading up to the brutal stabbing death of Sullivan; the night Sullivan was killed - Oct. 11, 2008 - involved rapid-fire communications among the three.

Deutsch also said that between Oct. 7 and 14, Briggs and a phone associated with Benitez was used to call Bank of America 17 times. Briggs was a beneficiary on Sullivan's life insurance policy. His death entitled her to $100,000.

Contact Philip Jankowski at philipj@kdhnews.com or

(254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.

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