SBI agent testifies DNA evidence links suspect to murder
By Nathan Hardin
When Special Agent Sharon Hinton searched the State Bureau of Investigation database for matches to DNA found at the scene of Jimmie Musselwhite’s murder, the database turned up one match: Bradley Paul Blymyer.
Hinton, a forensic DNA analyst for the SBI, testified Friday that the DNA found at the scene was 5 million times more likely to be Blymyer than any other caucasian in North Carolina.
Blymyer is being tried in Rowan County Superior Court for first-degree murder in Musselwhite’s 2006 death.
The court viewed a videotape Friday showing Joshua Lee Shaffer being interrogated by detectives. Shaffer, Blymyer’s best friend and companion in the crime, had testified Thursday, and much of his testimony was repeated in the video.
Charges against Shaffer have been reduced in exchange for his testimony.
On Nov. 10, 2006, Blymyer and Shaffer entered Musselwhite’s home on Verlen Drive with the intent, as Shaffer said, to “get pills one way or another.”
The two friends and fellow prescription-pill addicts pretended to need a telephone as an excuse for entering the house. After several minutes, Shaffer and Blymyer mentioned needing to buy prescription pills. Musselwhite then demanded the two leave or, according to Shaffer, “he would call the police.”
Shaffer, 25, then pulled out a pistol he had recently stolen from his girlfriend’s parents’ house and ordered Musselwhite to the ground.
As Musselwhite told the two they wouldn’t get away with it, Shaffer struck Musselwhite in the head with a Louisville Slugger twice, knocking him unconscious. Musselwhite had kept the bat near the door for protection.
Shaffer asked Blymyer to bind Musselwhite with duct tape while he searched the rest of the house for cash and prescription pills.
During this time, Shaffer said he heard Blymyer hit Musselwhite with the bat as many as four more times.
Shaffer also didn’t see Blymyer stab Musselwhite nine times in the neck, as investigators later concluded, but said he’d seen him carry a knife with him into Musselwhite’s home.
“I saw Brad with the knife in his hoodie pocket” Shaffer said. But having never witnessed it being used, he said, “I didn’t know Musselwhite had been murdered.”
When Musselwhite’s body was discovered on Nov. 16, 2006, after a friend became worried, the tip of a latex glove was found stuck to the duct tape wrapped around Musselwhite’s wrists.
It was in the tip of the glove that SBI analyst Hinton retrieved skin cells and matched them with a cheek swab from 25-year-old Blymyer.
Another witness placed on the stand for the prosecution Friday was Blymyer’s longtime girlfriend, Melissa Freeze.
Freeze said she had driven the two men to the residents of Shaffer’s ex-girlfriend. They broke into the house and stole four guns, one of which was later used to intimidate Musselwhite. They also took more than 30 video games.
Freeze was also the driver in an attempted robbery of Musselwhite around Halloween 2006, but Shaffer explained he “chickened out.”
Defense attorney Ken Darty got Freeze to talk about Blymer’s personality. She confirmed Darty’s claims that Blymyer didn’t have a violent nature, didn’t carry a firearm or threaten to use one, and was for the most part liked by people.
The prosecution also put on the stand Starla Holshouser Taylor, Shaffer’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of his two children. Under questioning from Darty, Taylor said it was Shaffer who had the negative nature, not Blymyer.
“If I said anything, Josh would come after me and take my kids,” Taylor explained.
Taylor, who had been part of the prescription-pill foursome, said she started abusing drugs not long after she met Shaffer.
“We talked about robbing Jimmie Musselwhite, but not Brad, just Josh,” Taylor said.
Detective David Earnhardt and Lt. Tim Bost of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and Special Agent Stephen Holmes of the SBI testified about obtaining warrants for Blymyer and Shaffer and the extradition process.
Blymyer was found in Kentucky, while Shaffer was discovered in West Virginia.
As Darty parried through the prosecution’s testimonies, the court continued to find its way back to the DNA evidence left at the crime.
Under questioning from Darty, though, Special Agent Hinton admitted that if Shaffer put on a latex glove that Blymyer had previously worn, “it’s possible” the DNA from Shaffer would not be found ó but Blymyer’s could still be obtained.