Police say Daniel Harden became a suspect early in the investigation into the death of 19-year-old Jose “Joey” Hansen on Sept. 11, 2017.
Hastings Police Capt. Raelee Van Winkle testified near the end of the day Monday that Harden was among five or six names that consistently came up in interviews conducted during the first two days.
“His name came up on Day 2,” she said.
By looking at Hansen’s cellphone, police learned that Deante Mullen was the last person to communicate with Hansen. From there, they started looking into others who had been communicating with Mullen around that time. Police requested records through Facebook, the social media site through which Hansen and Mullen had arranged a drug deal shortly before the shooting.
Van Winkle said they had probable cause to arrest Mullen within a couple days of beginning the investigation, but they waited to find out who else was involved. As the weeks went on, Van Winkle said investigators ruled out some of the group of people associated with Mullen, but Harden’s name remained.
“We continued to receive his name through tips,” she said. “We did attempt to talk to him.”
HPD Chief Adam Story testified Tuesday that he and Van Winkle approached Harden in October 2017 to discuss the case and any information he might be able to provide.
Jurors heard an audio recording of the conversation, in which Harden claimed to know nothing about the shooting. Story said he used specific interview techniques to try to get Harden to talk.
“It’s done to allow a person to tell his side of the story,” he said.
Harden said he didn’t know anything about a shooting. When asked about hanging out with Mullen the prior day or going to Lincoln with Mullen on the day of the murder, Harden said he didn’t know what he was doing that day without checking his calendar.
Story implied that police had physical evidence against him, but Harden continued to deny knowledge of the incident.
“You have physical evidence of me doing something I’ve never done?” Harden said in the recording. “That’s ridiculous.”
At the end of the discussion, Story asked if Harden would voluntarily provide a DNA sample and fingerprints. Harden refused and Story presented a search warrant for the collection. Harden was taken into custody in order to collect DNA samples and fingerprints from him, but was released afterward.
Story testified that Harden had a second chance to talk to police on the day of his arrest in December 2017.
Story said he was among the officers who served the arrest warrant at Harden’s residence. He was initially told Harden wasn’t home, but gained access to the residence and found that he was in a back bedroom. Before Story could open the door, Harden had climbed out the window in an attempt to escape. Other law enforcement personnel were outside the house and apprehended Harden.
At the Adams County Jail, Story testified that he and Van Winkle again interviewed Harden. A video recording of the interview was played for the jury Tuesday.
Again, Harden denied any involvement in the shooting.
“I think this charge is unfounded,” he said in the recording. “I don’t think it will hold up.”
But defense attorney Clarence Mock pointed out in cross examination that in during both interviews, Story had lied to Harden about the existence of physical evidence against him. Story said they had collected physical evidence, but nothing that directly connected Harden to the crime.
Story also explained to the jury why swabs were collected for gunshot residue (G.S.R.), but no tests were completed.
Story said the Nebraska State Patrol Crime Lab has limitations on what can be submitted for testing.
“They told me the state lab doesn’t test for G.S.R.,” he said.
He said they could have contacted a private laboratory, but the results wouldn’t have been conclusive. In the end, the decision was made to not submit items for G.S.R. testing.
Tuesday was the fourth day of testimony in the murder trial, which will continue Wednesday.
Harden is on trial for first-degree murder, use of a firearm to commit a felony, and conspiracy to commit robbery.
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.