Jan. 24-GOSHEN - Day two of the murder trial for Dustin McKee, a 31-year-old Elkhart man accused of killing his roommate, took place Tuesday.
The prosecution brought in several expert witnesses for testimony, as well as a family member to speak about his recollection of the events leading up to the shooting.
McKee, 30 at the time of the shooting, is charged with killing 38-year-old Brandon Lowe at their apartment home located at 424 N. Michigan St., Elkhart, Aug. 25, 2021.
According to police documents, 911 had received a call earlier in the day indicating that the two men were arguing, although they would not recount the details of the argument. Officers attended the call, and advised the roommates to stay in separate areas of the house for the remainder of the evening. Officers also noted that the men had been drinking alcohol that evening.
Later on, McKee called 911 to advise that he'd shot Lowe but he didn't want to. Lowe had been shot five times and died on the scene. McKee is charged with murder and felony possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. McKee admitted to police on site that he had shot Lowe, but Elkhart County Defense Attorney Jeffrey Majerek is attempting to prove that the shooting may have been in self-defense.
Tuesday's trial continued to bring the prosecution's witnesses to the stand, including a close family member of Lowe's.
Lowe's uncle Mark Hensley, Argos, told the jury due to their one-year age gap, they were more like brothers. Lowe grew up near him and they were close throughout childhood and early adulthood and spoke often even though Lowe had recently moved to Elkhart. Hensley spoke to Lowe at 9:15 p.m. Aug. 25 - the evening of the shooting - explaining that Lowe appeared distraught and worried during their approximately 10-minute phone call.
"Brandon never called and talked to me like that before," he said. Hensley said he didn't know McKee but said Lowe asked him to contact McKee and find out why his roommate was upset with him.
"Roommate" might be a strong term though, as Majerek presented two separate 911 calls from that evening indicating that Lowe and McKee had only moved in together a week and a half prior to the shooting. In the recording of the call, McKee is heard explaining to the dispatcher that a man had moved in with him and he didn't want him there anymore.
At first, he refused to offer the man's name, hanging up on the dispatcher twice before finally giving Lowe's name. He told the dispatcher he'd known Lowe for a while and has been trying to help him out when he became displaced by letting him stay with him but apparently changed his mind. The only reason he was willing to offer dispatch as to the reason was that Lowe was (explicative) adding that he wanted him removed from the home. He refused to offer police any specifics on the conversation that spawned the argument.
Moments later, Lowe called 911.
"My best friend just called the cops on me for no apparent reason," Lowe's call began, but he also refused to explain the situation, adding that he did want to stay there. He'd gotten kicked out of another place he was staying and McKee told him to stay there, he explained in the call. When asked, he told the officer on the phone call that both he and McKee were confused about what the argument was about too.
One and a half hours later, McKee called again, to inform them that he'd shot Lowe in his bedroom even though he "didn't want to" and based on police footage provided from Sgt. Brian LaBelle, was polite and cooperative with law enforcement. Lowe died in the room.
Lt. Matt Walsh with Elkhart County Homicide Unit told the jury during the trial, however, that based on the blood patterns in photos provided from the scene, the door would have been shut during the shooting, which didn't match the testimony McKee initially provided during investigation. A blood stain present on the door and trim, Walsh said, possibly that of fingers or toes, indicates the door was likely closed when the stain was made.
"There were things I observed at the scene that gave me doubt about the things he was saying during the interview," Walsh told the jury. He added that, based on McKee's story, the door would have been open during the incident. McKee's defense attorney Jeffrey Majerek argued that if a door were opened in a threatening manner, the individual opening it might shut it, or if a door were swung open, it could slam shut, adding that there was no way to know if the blood stain was caused by McKee or Lowe, but prosecutors confirmed with Walsh that McKee did not have blood on his hands or anywhere consistent the marks when police arrived.
Elkhart Police Department Sgt. Seth Watkins confirmed to the jury that McKee had a cut above his right eye upon arrival but at cross-examination, also admitted the cut did not appear to have fresh blood and so medics were not called.
Officer Christopher Kreager told the jury that Lowe didn't show signs of life upon arrival, but he began chest compressions after turning him over.
The next state witness will testify Wednesday morning.
Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 574-538-2065.