HEBER CITY — Barbara DeHart told 4th District jurors Monday that her boyfriend, John R. Pinder, has an alibi for the night June Flood and Rex K. Tanner were killed and their bodies blown up.
"He was with me all night," testified DeHart, who was released from jail recently after serving one year for conviction of obstruction of justice in the case.
However, DeHart admitted to prosecutors Monday that when she first made that statement shortly after authorities found body parts on Pinder's ranch about 15 miles southwest of Duchesne, it hadn't been reported yet what day Flood and Tanner had been killed. DeHart said her only source of information at that time was Pinder.
"I don't feel John is guilty," she said.
Pinder, 42, is standing trial on two counts of murder, capital offenses, for allegedly killing Tanner, 48, and Flood, 59, on Oct. 25, 1998. If convicted, he could face a possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors decided last year not to seek the death penalty.
Filomeno Valenchia-Ruiz, 36, Pinder's former ranch hand, is serving a life sentence for his role in the killings. Valenchia-Ruiz said he "accompanied" Pinder. Defense attorneys say the ranch hand killed the Tanner and Flood over a drug debt and is pointing the finger at Pinder.
Prosecutors planned to call DeHart's daughter to the witness stand Tuesday to rebut her testimony. Her daughter is expected to say her mother called her the night Flood and Tanner were killed complaining that she had cooked dinner for Pinder, but he hadn't come home.
Relatives of DeHart were also expected to testify that DeHart told them she tossed the gun Pinder used to kill Flood and Tanner into a lake and helped him wipe down his truck of blood.
"He did not tell me he murdered anyone," DeHart said Monday.
In questioning Monday, Utah Assistant Attorney General Michael Wims tried to show that DeHart's story is inconsistent, and that she and Pinder didn't act like innocent people in the days after the killings. On Oct. 29, 1998 Pinder and DeHart drove from Pinder's Duchesne County ranch to DeHart's home in Idaho. They left there, however, in DeHart's truck and without Pinder's 10 mm handgun.
After stopping off at a Salt Lake television station to pronounce their innocence, the two headed for Nevada. DeHart said she dropped Pinder off at a Las Vegas truck stop and then returned to Mesquite, Nev., where she checked into a motel.
Wims pointed out that by looking at the motel check-in time, DeHart would have had to drive from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas to Mesquite in less than six hours. When DeHart checked in, she registered two guests and used a false license plate number. When she returned to Idaho, she took a road that begins in Las Vegas. On the way back to Idaho she called Pinder's father several times.
Prosecutors presented more evidence Monday supporting their claim that Pinder killed Tanner and Flood. Newley Welch, a prison inmate who shared a cell with Pinder at the Sevier County Jail, testified that Pinder told him he killed Tanner and Flood and explained how he used explosives to blow up their bodies so it didn't make a "big hole in the ground." Welch said he asked Pinder what it felt like to kill someone.
"He put his hand on my shoulder and told me there is no bigger rush, especially when you know you are going to get away with it," Welch said.
Welch said Pinder mentioned having a shotgun with him when he killed the two. However, other witnesses testified Pinder had an automatic rifle and a pistol, but no shotgun.
Welch also said Pinder told him he buried parts with a bulldozer while wearing a black knit cap. An officer with the Division of Wildlife Resources testified he drove past Pinder's ranch on Oct. 26, 1998 and saw a man wearing a black knit cap operating a bulldozer.