By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — Defense attorneys for Airman Basic Edward Novak II began working Friday to undermine the integrity of an Air Force investigation.
The defense highlighted what they thought were weaknesses in the case during the cross-examination of two prosecution witnesses during the second day of testimony in the first-degree murder trial.
Edward Novak is accused killing his wife in October 2004.
An agent assigned as lead in the investigation of Kimberly Novak’s death testified Friday he had only been an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations for about six weeks when he was told to oversee the case.
Agent Ryan Smith said under cross-examination he graduated his law enforcement training in mid-September 2004 and was a probationary agent when he was assigned as lead agent in the Novak case.
“Did you feel at the time you were adequately trained (for the responsibilities you were given)?” Smith was asked in a question submitted by a juror, which is allowed in a court-martial.
“I felt that I had the proper oversight and management from my leadership team (and still do believe that to be true),” he replied.
Though he was responsible for overseeing the case, Smith testified under prosecution redirect he was surrounded by agents with more experience whom he could depend on for guidance.
In regards to the processing of evidence, defense counsel Maj. Jeff Palomino pressed Smith about a toilet in the bathroom where Kimberly Novak was reportedly found. The toilet was removed from the scene, but not dusted for fingerprints until April 2005.
“So it took approximately five months for OSI to dust (this very important) piece of evidence for prints?” Palomino asked.
“Yes sir,” Smith answered.
The only fingerprint found on the toilet was that of a plumber who removed the toilet, without wearing gloves, from the scene to OSI’s evidence locker, Smith testified.
Novak faces life in prison if convicted.
Kimberly Novak, 20, died of blunt force trauma and strangulation, military officials said.
The second day of testimony in the first-degree murder trial ended early after only two witnesses testified. Chief Trial Judge for the Air Force Dawn Eflein told the court in a hoarse voice she was not feeling well and needed to end the day around noon.
Court resumes today. Approximately four hours of testimony is anticipated.
Highlights from Friday’s testimony:
• Under direct examination, Agent Thomas Lorang walked jurors through the night of Kimberly Novak’s death and statements made by Edward Novak II about the events leading up to the discovery of his wife’s body.
Lorang interviewed Novak the night Kimberly Novak died while Agent Ryan Smith took notes.
Under cross-examination, Lorang said the interview was intended to get a factual understanding of what had taken place and Novak was not a suspect at that time.
He said nothing in Novak’s demeanor or statements raised any suspicions.
Lorang also testified a little over a month after the investigation started it was termed “A must solve case” in an e-mail from his regional commander.
• In the early days of the investigation, Agent Ryan Smith said Novak was not considered a suspect, nor did Smith observe anything in his interactions with Novak that led him to suspect him.
During an initial interview conducted the night Kimberly Novak died, Smith testified agents did not read Novak his rights because, “we did not suspect him of having any involvement.”
Smith also stated wounds he saw near Novak’s eye and on his neck the night of his wife’s death did not raise any flags. The prosecution has implied the wounds resulted from a struggle between Ed and Kimberly Novak prior to her death.
Court-martial fast fact:
Part of the process — After attorneys for both sides have completed their questioning, jurors, or “court members,” are asked if they have any questions they wish to ask the witness. Members submit their questions in writing for both sides to review. If there are no objections, the judge poses the question to the witness.
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The 911 call made by Novak the night his wife died was played in court Friday:
Novak: “Help. My wife… (Inaudible, breathing heavy)… Mindora Court 1479D… Ed Novak. (Repeats address for dispatcher).”
Dispatcher: “How old is she?”
Novak: “She’s 20.”
Dispatcher: “She’s not breathing?”
Novak: “No. I found her in the bathroom. Her head was in the toilet. Her head was in the toilet… She’s all blue.”
Dispatcher: “What’s your name?”
Novak: “Airman Novak. Ed Novak… What the hell happened?”
Dispatcher: “How long has she been there?”
Novak: “I don’t know. I just came home and went up there and she’s face down in toilet (panting, breathing heavy).”