CLEARFIELD – The defense began calling witnesses Tuesday during the Chase Anderson murder trial in Clearfield County Court.
Anderson of Curwensville was 19 years old in August of 2017 when he was reported missing by his mother. His partially burned body was later recovered in a remote, wooded area of Pike Township.
In April of 2018, Denny S. Bailey, 41, and Kenja K. Tew, 26, were both charged with criminal homicide, assault, kidnapping, conspiracy and numerous related offenses.
Bailey and Tew allegedly took Anderson to the location where he was found, beating him and stabbing him to death before allegedly attempting to burn his body.
Caitlyn Aughenbaugh, an acquaintance of both Tew and Anderson, was called by the defense to detail conversations she had with Tew in August of 2017 at the Nichols Street Sheetz, Clearfield.
The first time they spoke, she said he made a comment about “don’t kill anyone; it’s a horrible thing.” The next day, she found out Anderson was missing and thought back to what Tew had said.
She messaged Tew and asked to talk to him. A day or two later, Aughenbaugh saw Tew again at the same Sheetz store and they went behind back where there weren’t other people around.
Aughenbaugh said Tew admitted that he and another male had taken Anderson out in the woods somewhere and killed him. He refused to identify the other male involved.
She said Tew told her that he put Anderson in sleeper hold and the other male struck Anderson in the face, knocking him to the ground.
Then, at some point, she testified Tew was directed by the other male to “finish it” so he (Tew) jumped on top of Anderson and stabbed him.
Cpl. Matthew Higgins from the state police crime unit was recalled by defense attorney, Joe Ryan, who questioned him about comments he made to Tew concerning Bailey’s physical health.
Ryan asked Higgins if he recalled asking Tew why he didn’t just kick Bailey’s [expletive] because he (Bailey) apparently had some medical issues.
Higgins said he didn’t recall asking that specifically but when shown a copy of the interview transcript, he had no reason to believe it wasn’t accurate.
At the time, he said Bailey had a much thinner build and didn’t appear to be well while Tew, on the other hand, looked to be in much better physical shape.
Later under cross-examination, First Assistant District Attorney Leanne Nedza asked Higgins how Tew responded to his question.
Higgins said Tew’s response was “I didn’t have a gun … and he’s (Bailey’s) crazier than I am.” Tew went on to tell him that Bailey had threatened to “blow his brains out,” if he said a word about it.
Ryan also recalled Bailey’s ex-girlfriend, Chantell Demi, 30, who testified Thursday that Bailey and Tew took Anderson to a remote, wooded location with plans to “scare” him.
She said they were going to beat him up and leave him there to find his way back to Curwensville, but both came home bloodied and she just knew Anderson was dead.
Tuesday, Demi said she originally signed a plea July 19, 2018 to conspiracy to commit murder and related offenses and faced up to 40 years in state prison.
The plea agreement also included the stipulation that she fully cooperate with the district attorney’s office in prosecution of her co-defendant, Bailey.
Shortly after this, Demi said she filed a motion to withdraw her plea but it wasn’t granted until more recently and since then, she’s gotten a “better offer.”
Demi was presented with a letter she’d written to Ryan on July 31, 2018, saying she was under the influence of drugs and not in the right frame of mind when she signed the (original) plea.
She also wrote that she’d taken information supplied to her by state police investigators and made up a story based upon what they believed to be true.
But, when asked by Ryan about Thursday’s trial testimony, she said it wasn’t anything she had made up for state police and that it was the truth.
Under cross-examination by Nedza, Demi said even after she was incarcerated in county jail in this case, she and Baily were still in love and trying to take the blame off each other.
Nedza showed Demi a letter written to her attorney and she recognized the handwriting as Bailey’s. He wrote Demi was “100 percent innocent” and knew nothing about Anderson’s death.
Prior to their incarceration, Demi said she and Bailey discussed the different stories they both planned to tell state police in an effort to confuse them.
Demi said she didn’t realize how unhealthy her relationship with Bailey was until she was in state prison and away from him. This, she said, ultimately helped her to come forward with the truth.
The defense will wrap up presentation of its case Wednesday morning, then attorneys from both sides will deliver their closing arguments.
President Judge Fredric Ammerman anticipates possibly giving jury instructions and sending jurors into their deliberations sometime Wednesday afternoon.