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Defense points to co-defendant as lone gunman

The defense pointed the finger back at Deante Mullen as the trigger man to begin the second week of Daniel Harden’s murder trial.

Mullen took the stand Friday to testify about the robbery gone bad that led to the death of Jose “Joey” Hansen on Sept. 11, 2017. Direct examination by the prosecution ended Friday, and the defense beginning its cross-examination on Monday morning.

Through his questioning, Clarence Mock, one of Harden’s attorneys, pointed out that Mullen admitted to taking most of the actions leading up to the robbery.

Mullen wanted to rob someone to get money for an old friend, Deonte Hayes. Mullen arranged the meeting with Hansen. He was the one who retrieved the Draco, a firearm he purchased about a month before. He put the weapon in the white Chevy Tahoe owned by Katherine Creigh, Mullen’s girlfriend at the time. Mullen drove the vehicle to meet Hansen. Mullen was the one found with the methamphetamine Hansen brought for the drug deal.

“It’s all about you, except for the part at which you claim Daniel Harden pulled the trigger,” Mock said.

Most of the day was spent with Mullen on the stand, as Mock poked holes in his testimony from Friday.

Mock asked about the plea agreement Mullen received to testify in the case.

Prosecutors offered a deal in the case to reduce Mullen’s charges from first-degree murder and using a firearm in a felony to attempted robbery and accessory to a felony in exchange for his testimony. Mock characterized the bargain as a “substantial reduction” in the charges Mullen faces.

Mock suggested the real reason Mullen pointed the finger at Harden was to prevent himself from being convicted of a murder charge, which could send him to prison for life and leave him without the possibility of seeing his daughter grow up.

Mullen rejected that idea.

“I have the motive of telling the truth,” Mullen said.

Mullen testified that Harden contacted him to hang out on Sept. 10, 2017, around 10:27 p.m. Mullen picked up Harden as well as Deonte Hayes, an old friend; Hayes’ girlfriend, Serenity Crossfield; and Hayes’ and Crossfield’s 1-year-old child.

The group was partying, smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine, taking prescription drugs and drinking alcohol at Mullen and Creigh’s residence at 106 N. California Ave. During the course of the evening, the conversation turned to “doing a lick,” which Mullen described as robbing someone of drugs or money. Mullen said Hayes needed money to buy diapers and clothes for his child. Mullen wanted to help his friend and started looking for a person to set up for a robbery.

Mock asked what incentive Harden would have for being involved in a robbery if the money would be given to Hayes.

Mullen testified Harden indicated he was willing to help because he wanted money, too. While they didn’t discuss specifics, Mullen said the participants in a robbery generally split whatever is taken.

Mock asked Mullen if he was aware that Harden had recently inherited $11,000 on Sept. 3, 2017, and Mullen said he wasn’t aware.

Mock asked why Harden would need money if had just come into money.

“I do not know why he would say that,” Mullen said.

Mock asked several questions about Mullen’s history with licks. Mullen admitted that this wasn’t the first armed robbery he had committed, nor would it have been Hayes’ first. Mullen also said another person had contacted him about teaming up for a robbery at a later time, around the same time he was looking for people to rob.

He managed to contact Hansen, and the two arranged, through text message and phone calls, to trade some methamphetamine and $100 for some cocaine. Mullen said he had cocaine, but planned to rob Hansen instead of trading.

Mock pointed out that when Mullen first offered his testimony to law enforcement, he told them he didn’t plan to rob Hansen. After investigators pressed him, Mullen admitted that the robbery was part of the plan.

By the time Mullen had set up the deal, he said, Hayes had gotten sick, possibly from a drug overdose. He had turned pale and was throwing up. Mullen said Hayes went into the bedroom — where the child was sleeping — to lie down. By the time the deal was set up, Mullen said, he couldn’t wake Hayes to participate.

Mullen said he asked Harden if he still wanted to go and Harden said yes.

Mullen said he picked up his Draco — identified by other witnesses as an AK47 variant handgun — and drove Creigh’s Tahoe to the 700 block of West G Street. At first, he couldn’t find Hansen and drove around the block a couple times. After a phone call to Hansen, Mullen stopped the vehicle at G Street and Hastings Avenue to wait for Hansen to arrive.

A couple minutes later, Hansen opened the door and got into the back seat of the vehicle. Mullen said Hansen handed him the meth and then Harden pointed the Draco at Hansen.

In the back seat of the Tahoe, Hansen swore and opened the door to get out of the vehicle. Mullen testified the gunshot made his ears ring and he felt the blast of the muzzle flash. He said he didn’t see whether Hansen was hit but couldn’t see him anymore.

Mock asked about the reason Mullen hadn’t told authorities about feeling the muzzle in prior interviews. Mock said it amounted to adding new details to his story as a way of shaping the testimony to fit the facts set out by prosecutors.

“I’m just telling the truth, sir,” Mullen said.

Mullen said he got out of the vehicle and glanced around, but didn’t see Hansen. Mullen shut the back door where Hansen had exited and got back into the Tahoe and went home.

At his house, he and Harden exited the vehicle. Mullen went inside the house, but he didn’t recall whether Harden did.

Inside, Creigh asked Mullen about his cellphone because she had been calling him. Mullen checked his pockets and couldn’t find it. He checked the vehicle, but it wasn’t there, either.

Mullen said Creigh called the phone, but Mock suggested that was another added detail included to fit the call logs set forth by the prosecution.

Thinking the cellphone may have been left at the scene of the shooting, Creigh drove the Tahoe back over to the area, with Mullen in the passenger seat, and saw the phone and a package of Mullen’s cigarettes lying in the street. Mullen said he didn’t remember dropping them, but thought he must have when he got out to shut the back door.

The next day, they found out that Hansen had died from a single gunshot wound to the back.

Mullen and Creigh decided to go to Lincoln to get out of town for a while. They invited Hayes, Crossfield and Harden to come with them. Mullen said he sold the Draco for $250 because he wanted to get rid of the weapon.

Mock pointed out that during Mullen’s first proffer for police, he said he had thrown the weapon away. Mullen admitted it was a lie, which he said he made up because he didn’t want to get his friend in trouble. He also said he didn’t want police to find the weapon and run tests on it.

Mullen later was arrested by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department with help from the Lincoln Police Department for an outstanding warrant.

Mock pointed out that Mullen still had the drugs on him at the time of his arrest, some hours after reaching Lincoln. He asked why the drugs hadn’t been split among the robbery participants if that was the plan.

“The only reason why I had the drugs is because we didn’t split it yet,” Mullen said.

Mock said the real reason the drugs hadn’t been divided was because the only person involved in the robbery had been Mullen.

“You pulled the trigger, didn’t you?” Mock asked.

Harden is on trial for first-degree murder, use of a firearm to commit a felony, and conspiracy to commit robbery. Testimony in the case continues Tuesday.

First-degree murder is a Class 1A felony punishable by life in prison. Use of a firearm to commit a felony is a Class 1C felony punishable by five to 50 years in prison. Conspiracy to commit robbery is a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison.

Amount of Hastings' first snowfall still up in the air

For the second straight year, the first snowfall of the season is arriving early in the Hastings area — this week causing heartburn for farmers still standing in the field and clouding families’ Halloween prospects for Thursday.

The National Weather Service in Hastings is calling for 1-4 inches of snow in Hastings Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, with a light having already been received. Actual amounts of snow projected is likely closer 1 ½-2 inches in Hastings but may swing one way or the other, as early weather model data continues to disagree on actual counts, said Kate Shawkey, meteorologist for the NWS in Hastings.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty,” she said. “With the upcoming storm, we’re seeing 1-4 inches in a couple places. Uncertainty is the key message right now. People should be paying attention to news updates as we get new data in, as amounts given could vary.”

The heaviest snow figures to fall to the south, with higher winds and increased counts expected in north central Kansas.

Possible record-breaking lows will accompany the local snowfall, which is expected to cease by Thursday in time for hardcore Halloween trick-or-treaters to take to the streets.

Temperatures will reach 36 degrees for a high on Thursday but dip into the 20s as the evening progresses.

Those who decide to brave the weather in favor of holiday opportunities around town best cover up from head to toe on what figures to be a pretty chilly evening, she said.

“Just make sure you take appropriate precautions and dress appropriately for the weather,” she said. Obviously, everybody knows their own thresholds best. Make sure if you are going to be out there for a while that you’re covering exposed areas and are prepared for temperatures to be dropping.”

Safety tips on braving cold weather are available on the NWS web site weather.gov/safety/winter.

The unseasonably cold weather could break records this week, though as it stands, the five-day outlook figures to come in a close second in terms of being the coldest on record in the city’s 112 years of recorded history.

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

Corn is piled outside the Cooperative Producers Inc. elevator at Hastings Monday. Farmers pushing to finish harvest are among those area residents unenthused by this week’s onset of wintry weather.

The current record for the coldest last five days of October average in Hastings is 28.1 degrees set in 1925. This week’s storm figures to approach that mark but fall just short of it at 28.9 degrees, Shawkey said.

The early arrival of wintry conditions marks the second straight year the city has experienced such extremes in weather. Last year, the first snowstorm of the season arrived on Oct. 14, dropping 1.1 inches of snow. The average date for the season’s first measurable snow — which is 1/10th of an inch or more — is Nov. 23. The average date for receiving at least an inch or more of snow is Nov. 26.

Hastings Mayor Corey Stutte said he remembers how inclement weather put a damper on his own Halloween candy gathering experience as a youngster in the early 1980s. He said that while he has no official position on whether children should be braving the elements under such frightful conditions, he did urge caution for those who decide to pursue the tradition.

“We hope people stay safe and do things to keep their kids safe,” he said. “You monitor the weather and see what happens. We recommend to people that they take caution.”

Temperatures will plummet from a high of 39 degrees Tuesday to 29 degrees on Wednesday, slipping into single-digit wind-chill counts on Wednesday morning with lows in the low 20s. Wind probably won’t be much of a factor in the storm, topping out at 13-15 mph on Wednesday.

“It’ll be nothing to knock your socks off,” Shawkey said of the winds. “Nothing atypical for Nebraska.”

Beyond Thursday, temperatures will ascend into the 40s on Friday and Saturday and 50s on Sunday.

Hastings residents to have more time to clear snow

As the first snow of the season fell outside the City Building, the Hastings City Council took action Monday to extend the amount of time residents have to clear their sidewalks of the white stuff.

Members of the Hastings City Council voted 8-0 during their regular meeting Monday to approve Ordinance No. 4616, which amends the city code section pertaining to the time allowed for sidewalk snow, sleet and ice removal from the current duration of five hours to 24 hours after the storm or snow ceases, or in the event of snow emergency to 24 hours after the snow emergency is canceled. Council members also unanimously suspended to the requirement to read an ordinance three times for passage.

The ordinance takes effect 15 days after passage.

This was something the council discussed in the spring following storms last winter.

“We reviewed it as a staff and thought ‘Maybe we ought to get this passed before it snows this year,’ ” City Administrator Dave Ptak said. “If you believe in Murphy’s Law, I think Murphy’s Law is in effect today because all we had to do is put it on the agenda and look what we have outside tonight. Hopefully it won’t amount to much and we won’t have to use this ordinance.”

He said this change puts Hastings in line with other, similar-sized cities.

The street and police departments were involved in the planning.

“It will make a much easier method to remove snow, hopefully this winter,” Ptak said. “I’d rather have rain, but I’m sure we’re going to get some more snow.”

Also during the meeting, the council heard reports from Hastings Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Michael Krings and Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce President Mikki Shafer before approving the annual update of the longstanding funding agreements for each organization.

Funds for both agreements come from Hastings Utilities.

The HEDC agreement, for $125,000, promotes economic development, talent development and works to draw major industrial, commercial and retail customers.

The chamber agreement, for $30,000, is used by the chamber to market local retailers, highlighted by the Shop Hastings campaigns.

In other business, the council:

Unanimously approved a resolution approving the application of The Wandering Well for a Class IK liquor license at 411 N. Hastings Ave. in the Masonic Center for on-sale as well as catering purposes.

Unanimously approved the manager application of Theresa L. Parr in connection with the Class IK liquor license of The Wandering Well.

Unanimously approved the bid of $43,014 from Midwest Turf and Irrigation for a sprayer to apply all of the necessary chemical applications on about 300 acres of city parkland. The new sprayer will replace the department’s current sprayer, which is from 1978. The sprayer was in the budget and will be paid for with keno funds.

Unanimously approved Ordinance No. 4602, modifying the city’s extra-territorial zoning jurisdiction and modifying the boundary of the comprehensive land use plan. No additional readings of Ordinance No. 4602 were passed, so it could match a complementary ordinance at a future meeting.