The FAQ: The Murder of Anastasia WitbolsFeugen
Did a witness see Anastasia walk away from Justin's car?
Don Rand was a mechanic working at an Amoco station near I-435 and Truman Road on the night of Anastasia's murder. Called to testify for the defense at the trial State v. Case on May 1, 2002, he testified that on the night of October 22, 1997, he saw Anastasia arguing with someone in an eastbound car1 and then saw her walk away angrily. According to Byron Case's supporters, this testimony confirms or at least supports the defendant's assertion that Anastasia had gotten out of Justin Bruton's car near that spot.top of page
The problem with Mr. Rand's testimony is that it was not true.
Upon his cross-examination, Mr. Rand had to acknowledge that in his original statement to police (made two days after the murder), he had told them only that he had seen a woman he thought to be Anastasia walk east across the drive and thought her attractive, and could not tell whether she was upset in any way.2 He never described a vehicle, and never said she had even been talking to someone in such a vehicle, much less arguing with anyone.
For the record, Jackson County Sheriff Sergeant Joseph Becker's report of October 24, 1997 stated that Mr. Rand"says he remembers the victim walking east across the drive at about 8:30 p.m. He says he looked up, [saw] her walking and thought she was attactive. Couldn't tell if she was upset or emotional at all. Distance of about 50 feet." 3Throughout both his direct and cross examinations, Mr. Rand described the vehicle he saw as eastbound (headed toward Independence), on the south side of the street. His exact statement during direct testimony was as follows:"I recall a young lady that either just gotten out of a car or was in some type of an argument with somebody in a car at the light of Truman Road and 435 eastbound and from that point on she proceeded to walk away from the car before the light had even changed.4A moment or two later he had the following exchange with the defense attorney:5Q. Okay. Let me ask you that. After she got out of the car, which direction did she walk?In the defendant's description of that night, Justin Bruton's car was westbound 6 (headed away from Independence) and on the north side of the street (across the road from the filling station where Rand worked), which would have meant that Anastasia would have walked south from his car (crossing the street) to get to the Amoco station. A few of Case's supporters have attempted to parse Mr. Rand's words, arguing that "Truman Road and 435 eastbound" only meant that the girl was herself walking eastbound, but a reading of the full statement (and the fact that he made no note of her crossing a busy street and then turning east) makes it clear that he described the car as being at the light of Truman Road and 435 eastbound, and only later stated that the young woman that he saw walked east from that point.
Q. Which would have been in the direction of your gas station?
In summary, Don Rand saw nothing that was of any particular use to the defense.
Yet Case and his supporters still insist that Rand's testimony was exculpatory, claiming that the only thing that kept it from being confirmed was the lack of surveillance video from that night. They ignore both facts that his testimony was impeached on cross-examination, and that whatever car he saw that night was facing the wrong direction. It is significant that when they got a chance to tell their story on television, Mr. Rand did not make himself available.
It should also be noted that Mr. Rand might not have been as "totally disinterested" as Case supporters have claimed. He was questioned on cross-examination about his conversation with Tara McDowell, one of Case's friends who had spoken to him only days after he had spoken to the police detective. While he denied any memory of such a conversation.7 Ms. McDowell was also a witness on the defense's behalf, had already been questioned about and had acknowledged the fact that she had approached Mr. Rand and had talked with him at length about the murder and the events surrounding it.8 It could be mere coincidence that Mr. Rand's original description of having seen a woman walk across his drive was fairly generic, and then gained specific detail that helped the defendant after having been told such specifics by a friend of the defendant, but we'll never know. However, his tesimony did appear tainted to the jury.
To this day, despite all the evidence plainly laid out, Case and his supporters continue to claim that Don Rand's testimony is strong evidence in his favor. It is merely a sign of their desperation to accept and interpret flimsy, negative, and even non-existent "evidence" as favoring of their cause.