HAVRE - Hill County jurors heard opening statements and saw graphic photos Tuesday morning as the deliberate homicide trial of Anthony St. Dennis got under way in its second day.
St. Dennis and a co-defendant are accused of beating to death Forrest Clayton Salcido, a 56-year-old homeless man whose body was discovered the morning of Dec. 6, 2007 near the California Street footbridge in Missoula.
In opening remarks, Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg sketched an outline of the state's case against St. Dennis, telling jurors that a taped jailhouse telephone call between the 19-year-old defendant and a friend would serve as the most damning evidence of his guilt.
"The significance of this phone call is that Anthony St. Dennis admitted killing Forrest Clayton Salcido in this phone call. He not only admitted killing him, he bragged about it. He thought he had really done something terrific," Van Valkenburg said. "I can't imagine that anyone will really have a doubt after hearing that about whether or not Anthony St. Dennis is guilty of the offense of deliberate homicide."
Still, prosecutors intend to offer a full account of the slaying by calling around 30 witnesses. Their case in chief is expected to take two or three days.
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On Tuesday, Missoula County Deputy Coroner Mike Dominick said he determined that Salcido's death was caused by blunt force trauma.
Public Defender Paulette Ferguson told jurors that defense lawyers would call a medical expert of their own. The witness is expected to testify that Salcido died of hypothermia, Ferguson said, and not due to trauma.
But a shocking photograph of Salcido's battered and bloody face was displayed to jurors on a projection screen, as well as another portraying the man's lifeless body lying in an unnatural position, the way a passer-by discovered it. Those photos were shown over the objections of defense lawyers and clearly had an effect on the jury panel.
The trials of St. Dennis and his co-defendant, Dustin Strahan, were moved to courtrooms outside of Missoula because defense lawyers argued successfully that media coverage of the homicide was biased and inflammatory, making it impossible to choose a fair and impartial jury in Missoula.