Six witnesses testify in first-degree murder trial

Bruce Pollard mugshot

The first-degree murder trial of Bruce Darnell Pollard of Ottumwa is underway at the Wapello County Courthouse.

Six witnesses gave detailed testimony on Wednesday. Attorneys questioned a detective from the Ottumwa Police Department, along with investigator Amanda Kilgore from the DCI and Dr. Michele Catellier, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on the victim, 70-year-old Kenneth McDaniel.

Also called to testify were three people close to the victim, two of whom had seen McDaniel the day he was murdered.

Public defender Allen Cook says his client suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health problems as a result of being sexually abused by his father at a young age. Cook is taking an affirmative defense, saying Pollard is not guilty due to having a diminished responsibility at the time, but the primary defense is self-defense. Cook alleges McDaniel was "fastly approaching" his 26-year-old client. Cook asked witnesses who knew McDaniel for a number of decades about the victim's sexuality and relationship history.

â??I knew he had several lady friends,â?? Witness Marlin Ray Hesse said.

â??When was the most recent one you might think?â?? Cook probed.

â??Oh I don't know, 25, 30 years ago,â?? Hesse said.

McDaniel's sister-in-law was the second witness who saw him just hours before his death, saying she and her husband would bring "Kenny" dinner regularly. Mrs. McDaniel confirmed the fact that her brother-in-law not only managed Cinema X, but he also lived there, sleeping on a cot by two movie projectors.

Investigators claim Pollard entered the theater in March of last year, struck the 70-year-old with a crow bar and choked him to death. That weapon is a key piece of evidence presented at the trial.

â??It's difficult for me to tell whether this was caused by direct blows to the neck, which certainly could have occurred with the weapon used,â?? Medical examiner Dr. Michelle Catellier said. â??Whether there was pressure on the neck and if it was only pressure, then there must have been considerable friction force as well.â??

Iowa Assistant General Attorney Scott Brown said in his opening argument that graphic photos, Pollard's fingerprints on seized pornographic material after the crime, surveillance video and police interviews are just some of the pieces to the puzzle that depict the brutal murder scene.

Pollard is charged with first-degree murder and robbery. Testimony continues Thursday morning.