Witness describes chaotic shooting scene

·5 min read

May 15—For Patricia Labombard, the home invasion horror began with a gun pressed to the middle of her back, and ended with her trying to staunch the bleeding from a gunshot wound to Samuel Johns' neck as he died in the middle of his living room floor.

"There was blood everywhere," Labombard said, her voice faltering. "I could tell that he wasn't going to make it. I was scared, but I was doing what I could to help him. He died as the police came in."

Labombard described the grisly scene as part of her testimony Friday at a preliminary hearing for 43-year-old Clyde K. Ewing, who allegedly participated in the shooting at 1:40 a.m. Jan. 8 at 1706 Seventh Ave. in Lewiston. Ewing and his son, Demetri X. Ewing, 16, both are charged with first-degree murder, and Demetri Ewing's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

After about six hours of testimony, Nez Perce County Magistrate Judge Sunil Ramalingam ruled that there was probable cause that Ewing committed the murder. He bound Ewing over to District Court to stand trial before Judge Jay Gaskill for the alleged crime, and set an arraignment for Thursday.

Labombard said she had just met Johns, 31, in the Lewiston Orchards the evening before the shooting through a mutual friend. They later went to Johns' Seventh Avenue residence, where they smoked marijuana and listened to music in his bedroom with a couple of other people. The placid night erupted into terror, however, when she went to use the bathroom just off the home's kitchen.

Labombard testified that as she entered the kitchen, two people came in through the back door wearing dark clothing and masks that obscured their faces. She could hear their voices, however, and noted that one person was smaller with a higher voice, while the other was larger with a deeper voice.

"They came busting in and went through saying, 'Who's in the house? Who's in the house?'" she testified. "The way they were going about it, it was planned."

The person with the high-pitched voice put a pistol to her back and made her lay on the floor while he attempted to restrain her wrists behind her back with zip ties. But that person got distracted and left, so she was able to free herself and run to the bathroom. Fearing for her life, she blocked the door and pulled out her knife. Then she heard gunshots.

Labombard said she could hear the invaders leave through the kitchen door, followed by people screaming. She emerged to find that it was Johns' mother, who had her sleeping area set up in the living room because of her disability. Labombard called 911 while applying pressure to Johns' wound.

Nez Perce County Prosecutor Justin Coleman and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor April Smith then called a series of law enforcement witnesses to support the state's allegation that Ewing was one of the people who broke into the home that night. Lewiston Police Department Detective Brian Erickson testified that the Idaho State Police forensic lab determined that two 9 mm shell casings found at the murder scene and another found in the bottom of a backpack in the Ewings' room at Clarkston's Hacienda Inn were fired from the same handgun.

Erickson also testified that zip ties found in the room were similar to the ones used to restrain Labombard, and others fashioned into restraints that were found outside the home. Detective Joseph Stormes testified that he found bike tracks in the frost on the ground leading away from the rear of the home that were similar to the tires on two bikes in the motel room. Stormes also said there were cans of neon green and pink spray paint in the room that were similar in color to words that were painted on the home and a car parked there.

Police also recovered an unfired, yellow Federal brand 20-gauge shotgun shell in a field behind the home that was similar to ammunition in a bag recovered from the room, Stormes said, and tape found at the scene was similar to tape found in the room. Defense attorney Rick Cuddihy challenged each of those similarities as vague, saying that all such items are similar. In fact, he said, he had many such items in his own home.

Lewiston police investigator Brian Birdsell, who specializes in electronic evidence, showed a video that spliced together footage from several residential and commercial security cameras. Taken together, the clips showed two people leave the area of the Ewings' room at the Hacienda on bikes, travel east on Bridge Street into Lewiston, then to the neighborhood where the shooting occurred.

Footage from a camera two doors down captured the sound of two bangs at the exact time of the shooting. The video then showed clips of two similar-looking people riding back to the Hacienda. The time frame when the videos were recorded matched up with the time it would take for people to ride bikes from the Hacienda to Seventh Avenue in Lewiston and back, Birdsell said.

A gun hasn't been recovered, but Ewing's brother, Christopher Higheagle, testified that his home was burglarized on New Year's Eve while the family was out bowling. He didn't notice the burglary right away, but eventually discovered that his 9 mm handgun with four clips, a vintage military trench knife, a backpack full of survival equipment and other items were missing. Minus the gun, Higheagle testified that he later identified his missing items at the Lewiston Police Department after they had been recovered from the room at the Hacienda.

The prosecution also tried to establish a motive with Higheagle's testimony about a missing army-style bag that had belonged to their late father. He told the court that Ewing was extremely upset about the missing bag because it was the only thing they had left from their father. The word "bag" was spray-painted repeatedly on the home and a car at 1706 Seventh Ave.

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2266.