Ex-girlfriend's testimony comes under fire in murder trial
By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY - Defense attorney Darrin Jordan ripped into the inconsistent memory of his client's former girlfriend, who testified that Larry Wayne Call told her on the phone he stabbed a man - just hours before Kevin Michael Rufty's body was found.
Call is on trial in Rowan County Superior Court for first-degree murder in Rufty's death.
Slowly and methodically, Jordan marched through Tamara Propst's testimony Thursday and at times challenged her inability to remember dates or times she seemingly rattled off for the prosecution Wednesday.
Call watched intently as Propst, his former live-in girlfriend, responded to questions from his attorney. Prosecutors say Call killed Rufty after learning Propst was in a sexual relationship with Rufty in June 2010.
The 52-year-old was found dead in his car with multiple stab wounds to his chest, arms and neck. Authorities believe Rufty's Buick LeSabre crashed into a tree on Grubb Ferry Road just seconds after he was violently stabbed to death.
Propst testified for the prosecution Wednesday afternoon and part of Thursday morning.
During cross examination, Jordan asked her several questions regarding interviews with detectives in the days after the murder.
Propst, who testified earlier that she was a former prostitute, told detectives she smoked crack cocaine and drank alcohol with several people at a motel near Bendix Drive the night before Rufty's murder.
Propst also said she went with Rufty to a private spot by a nearby lake, but got angry when he tried a sexual act that upset her.
The offensive act, Propst said, upset her friends, too. She told one that night and several more the following day.
But on Thursday, Propst had trouble recalling for Jordan if she had made specific phone calls or spoke with friends the day before and after the murder.
"I don't have a clue. It was so long ago and I was on drugs," Propst said when asked if she recalled specifics of an interview with detectives the day of the murder. "So I don't know."
Jordan also brought up Propst's criminal record over the past 10 years, which included convictions for felony obtaining property by false pretense, felony credit card theft, larceny and several driving-while-license-revoked convictions.
Call has also had several run-ins with law enforcement. The 45-year-old is a habitual felon and has spent nearly 10 years in jail after convictions for selling drugs.
Following Jordan's cross-examination, prosecutors quickly regained the attention of jurors with the day's second witness, Rowan County Detective David Earnhardt, a crime scene investigator who photographed and cotton swabbed various items in Rufty's Buick.
Swabs were sent to the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation's lab for DNA testing.
Wearing black latex evidence gloves, Earnhardt held what appeared to be a brown seat belt and walked slowly in front of the jury box for jurors to see.
The belt was stained with blood and had two holes in it.
Earnhardt said the holes were consistent with two knife wounds found on Rufty's upper arm.
Repeated blows from a knife could have made the cuts, Earnhardt said, if Rufty had turned toward the passenger seat during the assault.
Superior Court Judge W. David Lee, of Union County, dismissed court for the day at 1 p.m. because of a time conflict with one of the attorneys.
Court will not reconvene today.
Jordan, Call's attorney, will resume his cross-examination of Earnhardt on Monday morning.
Along with Earnhardt's testimony Thursday, prosecutors admitted several new pieces of evidence, including three Busch beer cans collected from three separate locations.
Prosecutors are expected to put a beer distributor on the stand to determine the connection between the three cans.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.