Feb. 7-GOSHEN - A murder trial began Monday in Elkhart County Circuit Court involving a man accused of murdering who is presumed in court to be the man's former lover.
Jake Brunette, 26, is accused of killing Andrew Conley after having a dream that told him to do so, according to the probable cause affidavit for the case.
Court records explain that at 7:52 a.m. Nov. 17, 2021 dispatch received a call from a man at Monarch Trailer Court, 2312 Cassopolis St., advising that he'd been stabbed. At 7:55 a.m., they received a call from a woman at the same address stating that one of her roommates, Brunette, had stabbed the other and chased him, Conley, out of the house with a knife, returning later to inform her that he'd killed Conley.
Johnnie Davidson told police during an interview that the two men had lived with her and been romantically involved, but later Brunette decided it would be best if stopped sharing bedrooms. When Brunette began dating someone, a woman, Conley became upset, Davidson recalled.
Brunette hasn't taken the stand yet, so there's little information available on the motives behind the stabbing, but during investigations with police, he explained that he'd woken up from a dream that he'd stabbed and killed Conley and thought to himself that he needed to do that. So Brunette took a shower, and "listened to Frank Sinatra to get into the mood," the affidavit asserted.
He then snuck into the kitchen to find gloves to wear, and duct-taped the handle of his pocket knife so he would have a better grip before entering into the room and stabbing Conley multiple times in the back as he slept.
During Tuesday's jury trial proceedings, the prosecution brought in the men's roommate, Davidson.
Davidson explained to the jury that Conley has been staying with her since August and assisted her in day-to-day activities. Later on, his partner, Brunette also lived there.
Davidson had trouble responding directly to the prosecution's questions, and regularly explained additional details that were objected to, and at one point a mistrial was considered due to her comments, but Davidson was a primary witness on the scene when the killing occurred.
"I asked Jake where Andy was and he said, 'He's dead. I killed him," Davidson recalled to the jury.
Davidson's neighbor, Kelly Wagner, was also a primary witness and she identified Conley as Davidson's caretaker.
Wagner told the jury she was awakened during her regular sleeping hours from beating on the door and her dogs "going crazy." She answered the door of her home at Lot 31 to find Conley covered in blood and pleading for help. According to Wagner, behind Conley was Brunette and so she closed the door.
"He looked like a monster (Brunette), and that's why I tried to shut the door, because I was scared," Wagner recalled through tears. "I couldn't let him in, and I wanted to so bad."
After shutting the door, she told Conley that she would call the police. As she looked outside to see what was going on, she saw Conley outside with his throat freshly slit, laying on a door over a pair of trash cans.
Elkhart City Police Corporal Jon Carver was riding with Chaplain Jason Brooks when they received the call. Carver told the jury during prosecution that they arrived on the scene and said he specifically noticed that the area wasn't as chaotic as he expected from his prior experience. He observed blood on the storm door of Lot 32, Davidson's house.
"There was a little bit of confusion," he said. "A county officer had also arrived. We were trying to find the victim. While en route we were advised the suspect had fled..."
Then Brunette approached the door from inside the home. Carver said he didn't know who the individual was but that he had blood on him so he started giving directions to Elkhart County Deputy Patrolman Dustin Sahlhoff to detain the man while Carver put on protective gloves.
Carver noted an injury to Brunette's hand that was covered by duct tape. Brunette was placed by the county deputy to place him in Carver's city patrol vehicle, while Carver retrieved supplies to render aid to the victim.
The woman next door had opened a window and was yelling that an individual was dying on her porch, and a call came in from dispatch confirming. The victim was laying naked on top of a door that had fallen as Conley fell into it and it collapsed on top of two trash cans.
Carver said Conley had multiple lacerations all over his body and he was irresponsive. He was unable to feel for a pulse on the neck due to the number of lacerations, and he heard what he thought to be airflow from the lungs but did not see chest rise.
Firefighters arrived ahead of EMS and the fire medic approached the scene, also looking for signs of life. The fire medic believed the man was still alive and told EMS to get there "now," Carver said. Unfortunately, road traffic meant it was going to be difficult to get the ambulance to the location so they used the door as a makeshift gurney to get Conley to the ambulance.
Conley did not survive the trip.
Elkhart Police Department Detective Sergeant Brian LaBelle was directed to Elkhart General Hospital for a report of a homicide Nov. 17 and took photographs of the back of the ambulance Conley remained in following his death. He observed multiple lacerations, several lacerations to the neck, shoulders, and torso, and what appeared to be puncture wounds.
The prosecution asserted during opening statements Monday that according to Western Michigan University's Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, who performed the autopsy, Conley received a total of 36 stabbings or slashings, with a laceration to his neck to nearing decapitation.
Elkhart Police Department Detective Sergeant Denise Houser arrived on the scene around 10 a.m. that morning. House said Corporeal Jonathan Bontrager had collected the knife that was believed to be the murder weapon earlier and she seized it from him.
She collected evidence from both the outside of Lot 31 and Lot 32, both property's porches, and the inside of the home at Lot 32, including stains, splatters, and pools of blood in the bedroom, living room, doorways, and more, which she identified for the jury on Tuesday.
The prosecuting rested their case Tuesday evening. Today (Wednesday)the defense will begin.
Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 574-538-2065.