The state on Wednesday afternoon began its case against William Austin Mealer, who is accused of killing a Kokomo man in March 2020.
Wednesday’s court proceedings included a handful of witnesses, including police officers and the victim’s roommates, who the state hopes will convince the jury that Mealer shot and killed Dennis J. Vincent, 43, Kokomo, last year. Also presented in court were physical and video evidence, including Facebook Messenger chats and home surveillance photos.
Mealer was arrested and charged with murder on March 7, 2020, in relation to Vincent’s death a day earlier. An autopsy report detailed Wednesday in court showed that Vincent was shot from behind four times in the body and head. His body was found in the street in the 400 block of North Purdum, though no spent shells were located at the crime scene, leading police to believe the murder weapon may have been a revolver.
Witnesses in the area at the time of the shooting also told police they saw a man fleeing the scene shortly after the incident, and that same man was captured on surveillance video entering the yard of a residence in the 500 block of North Market Street, where Mealer resided.
Kokomo Police Det. Erik Fogg testified Wednesday that a search of Mealer’s residence at the time led to the discovery of a dark-colored revolver and five spent rounds in the tank of a toilet.
A probable cause affidavit filed at the time alleged that before the shooting, Mealer and Vincent were in an argument at Vincent’s house, located in the 600 block of West Jefferson Street, over a stolen shotgun that Mealer wanted back from Vincent.
The state called two witnesses Wednesday who were roommates of Vincent’s at the time, and one of them corroborated that assertion.
One of the witnesses testified that Mealer and Vincent argued, though not loudly, about a stolen shotgun for 30-45 minutes in the house before both of them left and headed in the general direction of Mealer’s residence, which is located just a few blocks from where Vincent’s body was found.
The other roommate testified that he didn’t hear any argument and couldn’t identify Mealer as the man who visited March 6, 2020, but did state he let someone in the house that afternoon who said their name was “Austin.”
Both roommates testified that police arrived at the house to investigate Vincent’s death just minutes after both Vincent and Mealer left.
Facebook messages, purportedly between Vincent and Mealer, were also a highlight of Wednesday’s proceedings.
Richard Bensinger, of the Kokomo Police Department, testified that he was able to unlock Vincent’s cell phone. While going through the phone, Bensinger said he saw a Facebook Messenger chat between Vincent and a profile named “Drippy Polo,” which is the name on Mealer’s Facebook profile, the state argued, as its present and past profile pictures are of him.
In the lengthy conversation that happened just a day before Vincent’s death, Bensinger said the two were discussing and arguing about an alleged stolen shotgun.
The trial will continue today and is expected to last at least through the week.