John Bruton was the father or Justin Bruton, boyfriend of the victim, Anastasia WitbolsFeugen.
Mr. Bruton testified as to his specific relationship with Justin, in that he was Justin's step-father and adoptive father.(1)
He testified about how he first learned of Anastasia's murder and the fact that Justin was then missing in a phone message that Byron Case left on his answering machine in Tulsa, Oklahoma,(2) and how he drove nonstop to Kansas City to see what had happened with Justin. He testified that after he arrived at Justin's condominium, Byron Case and Kelly Moffett visited him late on Friday night,(3) and that Case gave him a very matter of fact story of what had happened.(4)
Mr. Bruton testified how Byron Case and Kelly Moffett attended Justin's funeral in Tulsa,(5) and that he thought it highly unusual that they came all the way from Kansas City but did not actually sit at the funeral, waiting outside of the sanctuary.
He also testified that he and his wife had had a conversation with Justin a week or two before his death, in which Justin had discussed his relationship with Anastasia, expressing the idea that his feelings had been changing towards Anastasia, but that she was still having difficulty accepting it, and that he "felt terribible about it".(6)
On cross examination, Mr. Bruton testified that Justin had attended a gun show when he visited Tulsa on the weekend before the murder, and that Justin had had a prior interest in guns.(7) He also testified that Justin had dropped out of college a bit before that time, but that the family did not know about it until after his death, and that while it was a surprise, it was merely incidental information by that time.(8)
On redirect examination, Mr. Bruton supplied more information about Justin's visit to a gun show, that he had bought nothing but a penknife and some candy from a kid selling candy for a fundraiser.(9)
MS. CRAYON:Page 714       (John Bruton testimony)THE COURT:The State calls John Bruton.Sir, if you would come forward.
JOHN BRUTON, having been duly sworn by the Court, testified:Page 715       (John Bruton testimony)
DIRECT EXAMINATION BY MS. CRAYON:
Q.A.Would you please tell the jury your name.Q.John Bruton.A.Mr. Bruton, you're not from Kansas City, are you?Q.No, I am not.A.Where are you from?Q.Tulsa, Oklahoma.A.But you've come in for the trial this week; is that correct?Q.That is true.A.Do you have a son named Justin Bruton?Q.I do.A.Would you please explain the nature of your relationship with Justin, how you're related to him?Q.I am Justin's adoptive father. Justin was adopted. His mother and I married when he was about 5 years old, and he was adopted one year later.All right. And we obviously are here about the circumstances from October of 1997, and I want to ask you some questions about that.
Page 716       (John Bruton testimony)A.First of all, let me ask you, did you know Anastasia WitbolsFeugen? Had you ever met her?Q.We Met. I met Anastasia on two occasions.A.And do you know the nature at all of the relationship between Justin and Anastasia?Q.Yes, I do.A.What was it?Q.They were boyfriend-girlfriend and at one point they had lived together.A.Now, Justin didn't live -- in the summer of 1997, Justin didn't live in Tulsa with all of you, did he?Q.He did not.A.Can you please tell the jury where he lived and for what purpose he was in Kansas City?Q.Justin was a student at UMKC, and we had purchased a condo near the Plaza which was close to the university; and he lived in that property.A.And how long was Justin a student at UMKC?Q.He had finished the summer session and was enrolled in the fall session.Now, there were certain conditions for Justin to be staying up in Kansas City in the condominium; is that correct?
A.Page 717       (John Bruton testimony)Q.That is true.A.Please tell the jury what those were.Q.That was Justin's job, was being a student. Because he was a student we had paid for the condominium. We provided Justin a car, the insurance. He had no living expenses that he was personally responsible for. We absorbed all of his expenses, but, for that, his job was to go to school and be a student.A.So that was the condition, was that he needed to be in school; is that right?Q.That's true.A.As far as you knew, up through October of '97, he was doing that; is that right?Q.That is true.A.Now, I want to talk about that weekend prior to October 22nd 1997. Had you seen Justin that prior weekend?Q.Yes, we did. Justin came to Tulsa for a visit.A.And do you know how long he stayed?Q.He arrived on Friday and returned to Kansas City on Sunday afternoon.A.Now, did you and your family stay in contact with Justin on a weekly basis?Yes. During the week on occasions Justin might call or there might be some reason that we would call Justin, but it was kind of a set thing that Justin touched base with us every Sunday afternoon about 5 o'clock.
Page 718       (John Bruton testimony)Q.We would call Justin or Justin would call us, and that was the only set routine to keep in touch with Justin, was the Sunday afternoon phone calls.A.And you didn't have a call that Sunday because he was in Tulsa that day; is that correct?Q.That's correct.A.As far as you knew, he had left to come back to Kansas City?Q.That is correct.A.Now, I want to ask you -- I want to actually talk about Thursday, October 23rd. Do you recall receiving a phone call regarding Justin?Q.Yes, I do.A.Would you please tell the jury about that.It was late in the evening. It was around 9 or 10 o'clock. Justin has a sister, our daughter, who lives with -- at that time lived with her mother. And there was -- the house is a two-story house. There is a phone line downstairs and then a children's line upstairs.
Page 718       (John Bruton testimony)Q.She had gone to take a bath, and when she stepped out of the tub, she had received a telephone call that was on that line that there was a recording left to Jennifer.A.Who is Jennifer?Q.Justin's sister.A.All right. And what was the message that was left?Q.The essence of the call was it was explained that Anastasia had been found murdered, that the police would like to talk to Justin, but no one had seen or heard from Justin during that period and was curious to know if we had.A.And do you know who it was that made that telephone call and left that message?Q.Yes. It was Byron Case.A.Now, Byron Case, did you know Byron Case?Q.Just by name. We had never met.A.And how did you know him by name? To what relation was he?Q.He and Justin were friends. Justin spoke about Byron.In response to hearing about this message that was left by Byron Case at your residence, what did you do?
A.Page 720       (John Bruton testimony)Q.Well, naturally, hearing that type of a message, we couldn't imagine what to think or not to think. We tried to call Justin's condo. We got no answer, so no alternative was left but for myself to get in the car and drive to Kansas City and get there just as quickly as I could.A.Did you do that?Q.Yes, I did.A.Do you recall when you arrived in Kansas City?Q.It was early Friday morning, 2:30, 3 a.m.A.When you arrived at 3 a.m. what, if anything, unusual did you discover when you got to the condominium?Q.There was a business card from Detective Gary Kilgore on the door of the condo asking Justin, "When you get this, please give me a call."A.So when you got there, did you go into the condominium?Q.Yes, I did.A.And what did you do when you got in there?Q.I had a business card. I went through it for Justin. He wasn't there, so the first thing I did was call Sergeant Kilgore.And when you went to the condo, did you notice anything that you noted as being unusual when you got there?
A.Page 721       (John Bruton testimony)Q.No.A.Did you speak to Sergeant Kilgore?Q.Yes, I did.A.And did you promise to let him know if you had located Justin to have him call?Q.Most certainly did.A.Now, you have said already that was in the early morning hours of Friday. Did you stay in Kansas City for the duration of the day on Friday?Q.Yes, I stayed at the condo.A.Did you have anybody come and visit you on Friday in the evening hours?Q.Yes.A.Who was that?Q.Byron Case and Kelly.A.Now, the person who you have referred to as Byron Case who had come to visit you that Friday evening and was a friend of your adoptive son, do you see him in the courtroom?Q.Yes, I do.A.Where is he sitting?Q.At this table.A.And what's he wearing?Q.A dark suit and white shirt.Does he have glasses or not?
A.Page 722       (John Bruton testimony)Ms. CRAYON:He does not.THE COURT:All right. Would the record reflect that the witness has identified the defendant, Byron Case, please.Ms. CRAYON:The record will show that Mr. Bruton has identified Mr. Case.BY MS. CRAYON:Thank you.
Q.A.When Mr. Case, the defendant, and Kelly came in, had you met Kelly Moffett before?Q.No, I had not.A.And what was your understanding of her relationship in this whole situation?Q.That she and Byron were boyfriend and girlfriend.A.So when they arrived, they arrived together; can you give the jury an idea of what that was like, what that meeting was like?It was a pleasant surprise. They were unexpected. I was glad to see them both. I knew they were friends of Justin's. I knew that there was a concern there on Justin's part -- or for Justin on their part.
They came in and we had a conversation and, of course, I was curious to get as much information as I possibly could.
Page 723       (John Bruton testimony)Q.At this point, the only thing I knew was that Anastasia had been found killed and that Justin was missing and that the police were looking for Justin.
Well, of course, there was just terror in his mother and my part. We didn't know what to think or what to expect. And I was very, very glad to see Byron and Kelly.
There was no conversation from Kelly. When they came in, introductions were made. We went through the niceties. "Would you like something to drink. Have a seat."
After the introduction was made, I don't recall Kelly participating in the conversation other than introductions at all. Of course, I began to ask Byron as many questions as I could possibly think of Who, why, when, where, what.A.What, in fact did Byron Case tell you at that point?He had explained that the four of them had been on a double date and that they were returning that afternoon or on Wednesday afternoon, they were returning Anastasia back to her house, that she was living with her parents. They had come to a stop sign. Anastasia had turned to Justin and said, "Why don't you love me anymore?"
Page 724       (John Bruton testimony)Q.And Justin's response was, "I don't know. I just don't." And that answer supposedly infuriated Anastasia, and she got out of the car. Justin rolled down the window and asked her to get back in the car. She refused, saying that she was going to call her parents, that she wouldn't get back in the car. They drove off.A.All right. When Mr. Case is describing this to you, how would you describe his demeanor?Q.Factual.A.Was he upset?Q.No. It was just -- everything was just matter-of-fact statements. Matters of fact. There was no particular emotion shown whatsoever, as any two people having a conversation about something. But there was not an emotional side to the conversation.A.All right. And did he tell you that, once they drove off, where they went?Q.Yes. They returned Kelly to her home.A.And did he tell you what he did after -- or what he and Justin did after they dropped Kelly off?Q.They went to see -- there were friends of theirs. One was named Tara and one was named Abraham.And he told you he went to visit both of them with Justin?
A.Page 725       (John Bruton testimony)Q.That is correct.A.What did he tell you after that?Q.After that Justin took him back to wherever he was living and Justin supposedly returned home.A.Did he tell you he had any more contact with Justin that night?Q.I believe they did speak on the telephone.A.And was that that night or the next morning?Q.The next morning.A.Okay. And when they talked the next morning, what did he tell you was the contact?Q.Justin had called him. It was relatively early, 9, 9:30, and Byron had told him that he was still sleeping and that he would talk to him later.A.How long would you estimate that Kelly and Byron were at the house speaking to you about this?Q.An hour maybe. Not a particularly long time, nor neither a particularly brief time.A.Did either of you talk about where Justin might be?I asked if they had any idea, and he had explained -- Justin in high school had taken German and participated in a student exchange program and lived with a family in Germany. He loved Germany.
Page 726       (John Bruton testimony)Q.And Byron had said that Justin had talked about moving to Germany and that he knew that Justin had his passport and he suspected there was a possibility Justin may have gone to Germany.A.Was there a suggestion that they were concerned about his well-being as far as him committing suicide or anything like that?Q.Not that I recall.A.After -- anything else about the conversation I that you can think of that I haven't asked you about?Q.Not that I can -- not that I recall.A.All right. Now, that's Friday evening. The next afternoon, about 4 o'clock, do you recall having contact with Sergeant Kilgore?Q.I'll never forget that day. Yes, I do.A.Would you please tell the jury about that contact?The doorbell rang. It was Sergeant Kilgore. He came to let me know that Justin had been found. And my first question was: Was he okay? And I was told no, that he wasn't, that Justin was found dead.
Q.Page 727       (John Bruton testimony)A.And once you were informed -- well, once you were informed of that, did you start to make arrangements to have Justin brought back to Tulsa?Q.Yes.A.Did you have contact with the defendant, Byron Case, and Kelly Moffett later that evening on Saturday after you had found out about Justin?Q.Yes, I did.A.And would you please tell the jury about that?Q.They returned to the condo to express sympathies.A.And again, understanding that you had just found out about it, do you have any other specific recollection about anything that either of them said or their emotion or anything like that?Q.No. To be quite frank, I was devastated. I didn't want to be in Kansas City. I wanted to be home with my family. I couldn't go. There were things to be taken care of that prevented that. Arrangements to be made, and they were there. They were there, as I recall, for a relatively short time, and I don't remember anything particular in the conversation.Do you remember whether or not Byron or Kelly participated more in the conversation with you at that point?
A.Page 728       (John Bruton testimony)Q.Again, I do recall because I found it -- I did not know Kelly and again, there was nothing that she contributed to the conversation. It was just her presence, and I did not know either one of them, and I thought she just must be an incredibly shy person. I was hoping that she wasn't feeling uncomfortable. I hadn't done anything to make her feel uncomfortable, but that I did find it peculiar.A.Now, did you have a conversation with either of them or both of them together regarding Justin's belongings?Q.Yes, I did. I had an opportunity, in speaking with his mother, I knew that Justin was very, very fond of Byron, that he considered Byron his best friend; and I told Byron that we would be dismantling the condo and, if there was anything that he would like as a remembrance of Justin, if he would let me know, that he could have it.A.Okay. And was there anything that he asked for?Q.Justin and Anastasia had purchased a cat together. He did ask about the cat.A.And what happened?Justin's sister had already asked for the cat, and I explained that the cat was going to go back to Tulsa with me, and was there anything else.
Q.Page 729       (John Bruton testimony)A.And was there?Q.No. Nothing was requested.A.Now, as I understand it, the following Tuesday was when you had Justin's funeral in Tulsa; is that correct?Q.That is correct.A.Did anybody from Kansas City that you know of attend?Q.Yes.A.Who was that?Q.It was Byron, Kelly and Kelly's mom had driven them down.A.Was there anything unusual about them coming down that you want to tell the jury about?I thought it was unusual. We were glad that they came. We wanted them to come because they were Justin's friends. There was a large party of family at the house and cars were made available for them. We had a car made available for Byron and Kelly also, and there was a side room at the church made available for the family while everyone else was being seated.
Page 730       (John Bruton testimony)Q.And we were in that room, and when the family entered the sanctuary, Byron and Kelly were seated outside of the sanctuary, and they never entered the sanctuary to my knowledge. And I thought that was a little bit strange.
Again, there was so much happening, briefly, just entered my mind, I wonder why they wouldn't come in.A.So as far as you know, they didn't really come in for the funeral?MS. CRAYON:I don't believe so.BY MS. CRAYON:May I have just a minute, judge.
Q.A.Finally, Mr. Bruton, you and I have just met since this trial started; is that correct?Q.That is correct.A.And I have actually just had one conversation with you on the phone, other than the logistics of when the trial was starting; is that correct?Q.That is correct.When you and I talked on the phone, you had made mention of the fact that you had had a conversation -- you and your wife I guess had had a conversation with Justin regarding his relationship with Anastasia just a few weeks before she was killed; is that right?
A.Page 731       (John Bruton testimony)Q.That is correct.A.Would you please tell the jury about that conversation?Q.That Anastasia and Justin had broken up and that he felt terrible about it, that he had developed feelings -- he thought that he had feelings for Anastasia that he knew that were no longer there and that Anastasia was having difficulty accepting the fact that he didn't think it was best for them to continue to see each other.A.Was there a conversation as well about the fact -- not right around that same time -- where he was telling you that he thought he might want to marry her?Yes, there was. Previous to that, he said that he did want to marry Anastasia. Justin was 20 years old. He had an -- in our opinion, Justin was in a transformation period. He was not a child anymore, but certainly wasn't an adult either. And it was explained that, if he decided to marry Anastasia, that this would be an adult action on his part, and he would be expected to accept the consequences of those actions; that our plan was to equip him with an education that he could go out and have a good earning power for himself and for his family, but in the event he elected to marry, we were going to go with a new program.
Page 732       (John Bruton testimony)Q.It wasn't our intention to financially support one more on board; that, if they decided to get married and that was what he wanted to do, then he needed to be prepared to financially be the responsible person in the family and be a husband. We weren't going to continue to support him.A.Financially?Q.Financially, sure.A.So it was fine with all of you if he wanted to get married, but he was going to have to be an adult and get a job and not receive free room and board?Q.That would be a kid action for mommy and daddy to pay for him to get married. That wouldn't work.A.And it was just soon after that then that you had a conversation, brief conversation, with him that -- do I understand that he had decided that he was going to stay in school and not marry Anastasia, but that Anastasia really was wanting the relationship to continue?That is correct.
Q.Page 733       (John Bruton testimony)A.How did you find out that Justin was no longer enrolled in UMKC?Q.I called the school and had a conversation with them at the time of his death.A.And was that conversation -- prior to you calling, did anybody tell you that Justin wasn't going to school there anymore?Q.Byron did on that.A.Byron Case?MS. CRAYON:Byron Case did on the first visit on Friday said that Justin quit going to school.THE COURT:I don't have anything further at this time. Thank you.CROSS EXAMINATION BY MR. LANCE:Mr. Lance.
Q.A.Mr. Bruton, the events that you described for the jury today and the loss of Justin, is it true that Justin had visited you in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shortly before all these events?Q.Yes, it is. The weekend prior to his death.A.So the weekend prior to his death, the weekend prior to Anastasia's death?Q.Yes.Justin had visited you all down in Tulsa?
A.Page 734       (John Bruton testimony)Q.Uh-huh.A.And is it true that Justin had attended a gun show in Tulsa that weekend?Q.Yes, it was.A.And did Justin have an interest in guns and attending gun shows?Q.Yeah, he did.A.Did you attend the gun show with Justin?Q.No, I did not.A.He just mentioned it to you?Q.Uh-huh.A.Yes or no?Q.Yes.A.Now, if I understand this correctly, you were paying for Justin's condo at the time?Q.Well, when we bought it, we paid for it. There was no mortgage on it, no.A.Bad question. Let me rephrase the question. Justin was provided that he could live at your condo. He was provided a vehicle and spending money, and this was all provided to him on the condition that Justin attend college?Q.That is correct.And when did you learn he had dropped out of college?
A.Page 735       (John Bruton testimony)Q.After his death.A.So that was a complete surprise to you?Q.It was.A.It was a complete surprise. He had gone on using the condo, using the car and never told you he dropped out?Q.I assumed that he was still in class. To be perfectly frank, this was after his death and, although it came as a surprise, at that point it was considered immaterial in light of all the other events that had taken place.A.Sure.Q.That was nothing, but no, to say I was surprised, I assumed that Justin was still attending classes.A.And you learned of this surprise after Justin's death?Q.That is correct.A.Let me --Q.He had not quit school. He just quit going to classes -- or he had officially dropped out would I guess be the proper term.Let me ask you briefly about the conversation when Byron Case and Kelly Moffett visited with you. You talked about that conversation.
Page 736       (John Bruton testimony)A.Byron mentioned Justin's interest in going to Germany and visiting Europe. Do you remember talking about that?Q.Yes.A.Now, would it be fair to say that you can't possibly recall the specifics of that entire conversation; is that fair to say?Q.I'm sure it would be.A.I mean --Q.Sure.A.There would be specific sentences of that conversation that you --Q.It was over four years ago, yeah.A.So some of it would be a bit hazy?Q.Yes.A.And you relayed to the jury what you can remember of it?MR. LANCE:That is true.MS. CRAYON:No further.THE COURT:If I can have just a minute.MS. CRAYON:Sure.REDIRECT EXAMINATION BY MS. CRAYON:I just have one question I think.
Q.Page 737       (John Bruton testimony)A.Mr. Lance has asked you about Justin attending a gun show that weekend that he had come down to visit just prior to the week of the homicide?Q.Uh-huh.A.And that is something that you did talk to the detectives about; is that correct?Q.That is correct.A.And although you weren't with Justin at the gun show, did you talk to him about his attendance?Q.Yes, I did.A.And why don't you tell us about that.Q.Well, there were a couple of things. One, I asked him if he had bought anything, and he hadn't. And there was -- he was approached by a small child selling -- can't even remember what it was. Cookies or something that was trying to -- story Justin had was the kid was trying to sell all of this stuff and get money to go to camp on, and Justin had $5 with him, and he bought $5 worth of the kid's products to send the kid to camp.A.And what about was there some pen knife or something?A pen knife. Yes, there was a little old pen knife that he had bought.
Q.Page 738       (John Bruton testimony)A.And do you remember what that was like?Q.I remember it was kind of infantile. I didn't know what Justin was going to try to do with it, but he could have it if he wanted. He wasn't going to hijack an airplane with it, I don't think.A.All right. And he told you that he had not purchased any guns, right?Q.Right.A.And at the time of his death, he also had credit cards and things like that; is that correct?Q.That is right.A.And after he had died and some at the request of law enforcement, did you check to see if there had been any recent charges?Q.Sure. We did that on Friday. I was not aware of Justin's death until Saturday, and I got his credit card numbers. I called all the credit card companies. I was trying to find out where Justin was to maybe see if there had been any activity on the credit cards that I could see. Did Justin go to Germany. Has he bought a ticket to go to Germany. What is he doing.In fact, there was no activity for the past couple of weeks; is that right?
A.Page 739       (John Bruton testimony)Q.That is correct.A.And are you aware of the fact of whether Justin owns any firearms?MS. CRAYON:I knew he had a pellet rifle. I knew that he had a BB gun. The BB gun was in Tulsa. Byron had told me a story about a shotgun that I was not aware of and other than that no, I was not aware of any guns that Justin owned.THE COURT:Thank you, sir.MR. LANCE:Mr. Lance.THE COURT:No further questions.THE COURT:All right. Tbank you very much, Mr. Bruton. We appreciate your testimony.
(The witness was excused.)THE COURT:Can I see the lawyers.
(Counsel approached the bench and the following proceedings were had:)MR. FRY:Tell me where we are.MS. CRAYON:Several short witnesses this afternoon and we're done.we're talking four witnesses, all of them are real short. The longest is probably going to be the medical examiner.
THE COURT:Page 740       (John Bruton testimony)MS. CRAYON:And you're done?THE COURT:Uh-huh.MR. LANCE:Can you give me --just for planning purposes, can you give me some sense of what you're going to put on?THE COURT:Well, I have nine or ten witnesses. I have at least three going to be here this afternoon.MR. LANCE:So you could put on some this afternoon if you need to?THE COURT:Yeah. At least three are supposed to be here.
(The proceedings returned to open court.)All right. Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to take a lunch recess. We're going to try to maybe, if it's all right with you, we're going to try to start about 1:15, if that's all right. Briefly, I'm going to talk with the lawyers and try to get some sense of the schedule for today and tomorrow while we're at lunch.
So I will again remind you of what you were told at the first recess of the Court.
Until you retire to consider your verdict, you must not discuss this case among yourselves or with others or permit anyone to discuss it in your hearing. You should not form or express any opinion about the case until it is finally given to you to decide. Do not read, view, or listen to any newspaper, radio, or television report of the trial.
With that being said we'll be in recess until approximately 1:15. All rise, please. Jury is free to go to lunch.
(A noon recess was taken.)