Aug. 18-GOSHEN - Jordan Wolf's trial continued Wednesday in Elkhart County Circuit Court, focusing heavily on surveillance, tracking, and forensics made available to the jury.
Wolf is charged with one count of murder of shooting and killing Forrest Howard, 27, South Bend, June 19, 2021 on Fifth Street in Elkhart.
Elkhart County Homicide Detective Matthew Walsh returned to the stand to explain to the jury what he viewed as evidence from several surveillance cameras at 7-Eleven Gas Station, 12510 Adams Road, Granger; and the 500 block of South Fifth Street in Elkhart, where the shooting took place.
Walsh explained to Prosecutor Kathleen Claeys that based on the footage from the cameras and led by testimony provided by Joshua Strickland, Jordan Wolf, Wolf's father Stephen Loy and himself were in the area of 515 S. Fifth St., during the time Howard was shot and killed. In footage acquired from a neighboring property's security camera, Walsh claims to see Strickland driving a blue Nissan Altima with Loy and Wolf as passengers.
Strickland let the two out of the vehicle in the area of Fifth Street and Harrison around 2:31 a.m. They later left and returned to the home at 4:34 a.m. and did not go inside, rather, mingled outside, presumably looking at their phones and smoking, Walsh explained. During the video, Loy is seen walking southbound on Fifth Street 10 to 12 minutes prior to the shooting. Wolf remains on the porch.
The victim, Forrest Howard arrived at the location at 4:50 a.m., Walsh explained based on the video. He is seen riding in on a bicycle at a time when Loy is not present. Howard makes contact with Wolf, and the two were in what Walsh believed to be positive interaction when Loy returns, while possibly smoking and fiddling with a backpack.
Walsh said that based on the video, the two did not appear to be fighting in the beginning. When the fight did break out, he believed Wolf to be the aggressor, as he began taking steps toward Wolf, who then took steps backward before being punched or shoved by Wolf according to the video, causing Howard's hat to come off. The video appears to show Howard then walking toward the Nissan with a backpack and nothing else in his hands prior to the shooting.
During an interview with Cameron Pate, it was made known that the phone found at Runaway Bay Apartment 1B had been given to Wolf by Pate, a childhood friend Pate said, in June 2021 because he didn't have one. Pate said he "had an extra one to give, so I gave it to him."
Jeremy Stout, Criminal Intelligence Analysis for the Elkhart County Prosecutor's Office, confirmed that the phone was in the area of the 500 block of South Fifth Street during the shooting and moved west afterward, was found at the 7-Eleven in Granger following the shooting, and then began to move north, as well as near Eagle Lake later on.
According to Stout, an individual Wolf had been Facebook Messenger messaging, Kyle Bolock, lived on Cherry Lane, near Eagle Lake. Wolf asked Bolock for his address while in transit, and Bolock gave it to him. Bolock's home appeared to be several hundred feet from where the gun fragments were recovered.
The information comes from T-Mobile's cell towers, who had sent the office call service records, ownership records, and geolocation information in order to determine the phone's location before, during, and after the shooting. Stout began his research with video surveillance timed at 4:59 a.m., because he felt it was the most important time in the incident, being the moment when Howard was shot.
The phone is tracked to have only been near Eagle Lake for eight minutes before re-entering Indiana and returning to Elkhart. the phone is then tracked to the 600 block of Hiawatha Drive, where it remains for about an hour between 6 and 7 a.m.
Stout also recovered two Gmail accounts associated with the phone's Google accounts, both including "JJ" and/or "Wolf" in the ID. The phone also had photos and Facebook Messenger messages related to the incident as well. Stout also found that at 12:09 a.m. June 19, 2021, the user of the phone accessed a Facebook Messenger message with a photo of a SCCY 9mm handgun. Up to two hours prior to the shooting, and following it, Stout found conversations with Bolock.
Majerek objected to sharing text messages from Wolf, implying that his client was involved in anything other than selling marijuana. He called it "overly prejudicial" to presume Wolf was on South Fifth Street in order to cause other problems. Christofeno did not agree and the court overruled it.
Stout claims Wolf attempted to sell "bud and powder," which Stout identified as marijuana and methamphetamine, or cocaine, with an expected arrival time around 4:10 a.m. At 3:47 a.m., Wolf told Bolock that he was at 515 S. Fifth St., and at 4:12 a.m., Bolock said he was at the bank. Text messages and surveillance did not indicate to Stout that Bolock ever arrived.
At 4:48 a.m., Wolf texted asking Bolock to hurry up. At 4:53, Steven Loy arrived back at the location, receiving three other messages telling Loy to rob Howard, who had recently appeared, because he "had a safe of loud." At 4:59 a.m. Wolf is seen standing at the front passenger side of the vehicle and has turned his attention to Howard, who is messing with his bag before coming forward to continue interaction.
Wolf takes steps forward, and Howard begins to move backward, is struck and his hat falls off. Loy is seen preparing to exit the vehicle's passenger side he got into moments earlier. Within seconds, a frame shows Wolf standing over Howard with a handgun pointed at him, and Loy behind him.
Following the shooting, video surveillance from the neighboring property showed Loy, Strickland, and Wolf getting back into the blue Nissan Altima and leaving the scene. Another video, from 7-Eleven on Adams Road in Granger, is believed to show the trio before they leave Indiana and head into Michigan. Stout also noted that within 10 minutes after the shooting, Wolf's phone had downloaded two police scanner apps.
Craig Fox, of Granger, was also called to testify. He and his girlfriend claimed to have found the gun used in the murder on their property on Eagle Lake. Fox told the jury that his girlfriend had taken the dogs outside and they were swimming in the lake water June 19, 2021, when she saw the weapon in the clear morning waters. Fox sent the photo to a friend of his, who is a state officer, who told him to call the local police department.
Edwardsburg Police Department picked up the portions of the weapon and when Walsh and half a dozen other detectives came to the area looking for it, they were able to determine that it might be the one in question. Walsh explained to the jury that piece was a portion of a SCCY 9mm handgun that contains the grip. Additional pieces were also found on U.S. 12 and Brady Road, based on Strickland's testimony.
Detective Sargent Brian LaBell told the jury that around 6:50 a.m. officers arrived to find a man later identified as Howard lying in the roadway. They collected, among other things, Howard's ID, a flag cowboy hat proven to have belonged to Howard, a yellow flatbill baseball cap with Indiana on it, a black Nike backpack, a grey Trek bicycle, and spent shell casings from South Fifth Street. Inside the backpack, LaBell found marijuana in individually labelled packets and a grinder.
At the autopsy at Southwestern Michigan, LaBell recovered from the examiner three projectiles.
LaBell's team also found a spent shell casing at apartment 1B at Runaway Bay Apartments in Mishawaka as well as a Samsung cell phone. Both hats, and DNA swabs from Howard were sent for examination. The firearm was not sent for fingerprints, LaBell said, because it had been underwater.
Ray Wolfenbarger, of the South Bend Police Department's Crime Lab, told the jury that he received four 9mm casings and three bullet fragments for review. He told the jury that the casings came from three different firearms based on his analysis with two coming from the same firearm, and the bullet fragments came from the 38 family which includes a 9mm Luger and were fired from the same gun, based on striations on the fragments, specifically SCCY or SKYY firearm brands.
The trial is set to continue Thursday. Wolf faces up to 85 years if convicted.
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.