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Crime & Courts

Greg Leon Murder Trial: The State Rests

Forensic pathologist bolsters the state’s case …

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After a damaging fourth day of trial for Midlands restauranteur and accused murderer Gregorio M. Leon, prosecutors sought to close things out on Friday – the fifth day of the proceedings and the final day of the state’s case. South Carolina eleventh circuit solicitor Rick Hubbard called special agent Adam Hardin of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to the stand to explain his agency’s investigation of a threatening phone call received by witness Enrique “Ruby” Sierra following the murder of her former roommate and lover Arturo Bravo.

Bravo was killed on Valentine’s Day seven years ago while engaging in an affair with Leon’s wife, Rachel Leon.

The threatening phone call received by Sierra came from a Mexican area code, and when she answered it – a person claiming to be “Ricardo” informed her he was affiliated with the Los Zetas cartel. According to “Ricardo,” cartel leaders needed information about Leon in order to exact retribution for Bravo’s murder.

Haddin, a veteran investigator of Mexican gangs, testified that in 20 years with the DEA he’d never seen a gang forewarn a potential victim in this way. He further explained to jurors the call wasn’t necessarily placed from Mexico as technology allows senders to disguise their actual location.

Nonetheless, Hardin told jurors his agency checked their global federal law enforcement database, running Arturo Bravo‘s name – as well as all of his known aliases – but did not find any ties to investigations conducted by the DEA or other federal agencies.

Defense attorney Jack Swerling had no questions for Hardin.

(Click to view)

(DEA Special Agent Adam Hardin Via: Dylan Nolan – FITSNews)

Hubbard next called Dwane Toole, who sold Greg Leon the GPS tracking device he used to clandestinely monitor his wife’s movements in the month leading up to the shooting. Toole testified his brother installed the device in Rachel Leon‘s vehicle, and that he showed Greg Leon how to use the tracker app on his cell phone.

“You can actually see the movement in real time,” he said.

Toole testified this was the “first and only time” he sold this type of tracker to a member of the public.

The state’s next witness was sergeant Michael Phipps, a forensic technology investigator with the Lexington County sheriff’s department, was qualified by the court as an expert in the field of forensic digital evidence. Phipps extracted the cell phone found in Greg Leon’s car – and told the jury about his use of Facebook.

Leon had both personal and business accounts – the latter of which had Leon’s birthday listed in account records.

(Via: Dylan Nolan – FITSNews)

(Leon’s cell phone Via: Dylan Nolan – FITSNews)

Prosecutors suggested Leon used the business account, adding that his phone number was listed in account records.

Leon’s personal account was created on January 13, 2016 – just a month before the murder. Rachel, Leon’s wife, was conspicuously absent from her husband’s friends list. However, Leon was friends with Maria Moreno – who is accused of assisting him in his alleged witness tampering attempts.

Philipps further told jurors that Leon visited a number of dating websites in the month leading up to the shooting, including ourtime.com and localmilfselfies.com. Defense attorney Alissa Wilson objected to the jury seeing Leon’s web activity, which led to the attorneys duking it out without the jury being present.

The state opened up about its strategy, telling judge Walton J. McLeod IV that Leon’s visits to dating sites “would allow him to view profiles Rachel Leon may have posted to the sites” – indicating he suspected infidelity. McLeod overruled Wilson’s objection, and brought the jury back into the courtroom.

Phillips proceeded to present a data log showing Leon’s use of the GPS tracker installed in his wife’s car. While this information was hardly new to jurors, it strengthened the state’s timeline of Leon’s activities on the night of Bravo’s murder.

The state next called Dr. Janice Ross, a veteran forensic pathologist who has preformed more than 15,000 autopsies.

(Click to view)

(Via: Dylan Nolan – FITSNews)

Jurors, who had to this point had not seen a close-up shot of Bravo’s body, saw exactly where he was shot. Bravo was struck three times – one of the shots likely wouldn’t have been fatal, a second ripped through his heart and ended up in his lung, and a third landed in his liver.

The wounds are not jarring in their appearance, measuring less than a half inch in diameter. Ross testified there was no stippling found around them. Stippling, an accumulation of gunpowder on the victims skin, is found when the end of the gun’s barrel is close to the victim.

Bravo had abrasions “consistent with falling down on a surface” likely attributable to his fall from the truck to the pavement.

After the autopsy, Ross visited investigators to set up a shot angle mannequin. Hubbard asked Ross to show the gunshot angles to the jury on his body – pushing back against the idea that Bravo was reaching for a weapon.

“So again the wounds are back to front, even though they entered the side?” Hubbard asked.

“Yes,” she responded.

(Click to view)

(Via: Dylan Nolan – FITSNews)

“And if he had turned towards the shooter would it have been a different array of wounds?” Hubbard asked.

“Yes,” she replied, adding that Bravo had no defensive wounds.

Bravo’s death wasn’t instant. According to Ross, he likely would have lived for approximately a minute before succumbing to internal bleeding.

(Click to view)

(Via: Dylan Nolan – FITSNews)

Wilson and Ross sparred over wether Leon was shot in the back on cross examination. Wilson projected a picture of Bravo’s body taken from some distance away at the crime scene, asking Ross to clarify where the wounds were.

“This is a bad picture.” she replied.

Wilson’s next line of inquiry was more substantive. She pointed out that in Ross’ initial report she hypothesized that Bravo’s right arm was raised when he was shot – even though she had just testified it was down by his side at the time of the shooting.

“So it wasn’t until this time, seven years later, that you changed your opinion?” Wilson asked.

Wilson replied that she had changed her assessment after reviewing her files in preparation for the trial, and that she had told the solicitor’s office about this change. This change didn’t appear to have been conveyed to the defense team – which could conceivably raise an appellate issue should Leon ultimately be convicted.

After Ross’ testimony, the state rested their case – and McLeod adjourned court for the week. The defense is scheduled to call its first witness when the trial resumes at 10:45 a.m. EDT on Monday (June 26, 2023).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

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Dylan Nolan is a journalist and video producer for FITSNews. He graduated from the Darla Moore School of Business with a bachelors in Accounting in 2021, and has spent his professional career attempting to shine light on corruption and institutional failure in South Carolina through his journalism. Got a tip or story idea for Dylan? Email him here. You can also engage him socially @DNolan2000.

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1 comment

stephen henry Top fan June 24, 2023 at 2:31 pm

Re: Law-breaking restaurant owners. This has nothing to do with anything important, but my most memorable experience with restaurant owners and the law occurred when the owner of a very prosperous chain of upscale Chinese restaurants was busted for repeatedly catching domesticated ducks in local subdivisions for use in restaurant menus. This was a guy who lived in ultra-expensive house, wore Armani, and drove a Ferrari. As I said, nothing to do with nothing …

Thanks, Dylan … and best wishes as you hopefully continue your impressive growth as a journalist.

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