Much of the murder case in the 34-year-old disappearance of an Eldon teenager appears to center around the girl's relationships as well as her mother, who was involved in a relationship with Priest.
Much of the murder case in the 34-year-old disappearance of an Eldon teenager appears to center around the girl’s relationships as well as her mother, who was involved in a relationship with Priest.
Sandra Kuchan’s relationship with Priest went on trial, under questioning Tuesday afternoon, the last witness of the day.
Just dating, according to Kuchan’s description, she did not know until later that Priest had stopped by the morning of Tammy’s disappearance to borrow her son’s car, ostensibly to get to work since his car had been damaged in an accident the day before.
More shockingly, Sandra claimed that at one point after Tammy’s disappearance Priest told her he had Tammy and she would only see her daughter again through him. Going to police with the information, she said they advised her to begin keeping a diary to record information that Priest might let drop that could lead to Tammy or her body. However, Sandra also said that when Priest initially contacted her following Tammy’s disappearance, it was an offer to help put up posters to find Tammy, telling Sandra he believed Tammy had run away.
According to Sandra, she stayed in touch with Priest in hopes of finding Tammy, but eventually ended communication after an incident in which she said Priest threw her all of her furniture and stuff outside on the lawn in an argument to which police were called.
In cross examination by defense attorney Matt Willis, he tried to draw doubt of Sandra’s recollections and knowledge about her daughter’s personal life, calling this time period in her life “chaotic” and quizzing Sandra about possible tattoos Tammy may have had. Sandra denied Tammy had any tattoos.
Tammy’s real life at the time of her disappearance was the real question though.
In opening statements, the prosecution and defense talked of two groups of males.
One group includes accused murderer Martin Dean Priest and his nephews, David and Michael Nicholas, brought forward by the prosecution.
The other set were two males brought up by the defense as they sought to poke holes in the prosecution’s storyline of a relationship between David Nicholas or Martin Priest and Tammy that ended in a pregnancy, and upon her telling them that fateful day, her alleged death at Priest’s hands.
In questioning initial witnesses Tuesday, October 9, defense attorney Matt Willis brought up the names of David Birdsong and the Webb brothers, namely Gary Webb.
Under questioning, Tammy’s brother Donald, five years older than her, said he and Tammy were close, but he never heard her talk about David Nicholas. Donald Rothganger said that he did not believe Tammy had been pregnant. There had never been any indication she was in a sexual relationship. He also testified that Tammy had talked about David Birdsong.
More digging with her brother into Tammy’s situation at the time by Willis was cut short by an objection from Platz, claiming hearsay.
Tammy’s mother, Sandra Kuchan, also said under questioning that she had not heard Tammy speak of David Nicholas, and despite dating Priest, did not know Nicholas.
Theresa Hicks Baughman, the girl friend who saw Tammy get in the car that day, described her relationship with Tammy as “smoking buddies.” The two girls, Theresa then 14, and other kids would often gather at a parking lot near the school to smoke before school started. Under questioning, Baughman also said Tammy had never talked about Nicholas or Priest, but didn’t remember her talking about any boy in particular.
Assistant Attorney General Monty Platz, assisting the Miller County Prosecutor’s Office, told jurors though of David Nicholas, just 13 years old at the time. Decades after Tammy’s disappearance, Eldon police officer, and now chief, Brian Kidwell learned of his name as the potential other male in the car in 2010 through a tip.
Approaching David Nicholas then, Platz said Nicholas refused multiple times to provide authorities any information — portrayed as a case of having no story to tell by the defense. But then serving time in jail on unrelated charges, Nicholas had a change of heart. According to Platz no deals were made with Nicholas, or later his brother Michael.
David and Michael each told his story in testimony Wednesday.