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Monday, June 17, 2024

Day 2 of testimony brings more questions about money

Money, booze, and the actions of two central figures again took center stage during day two of testimony for the Ralph Leslie Apmann murder trial.

Jurors were seated promptly this morning at 9 a.m. in a courtroom that has changed little since it last held a murder trial, a quarter-century ago. There was virtually no reaction from the jury, as they listened to mostly patrons and employees describe the scene at the Phat Pheasant Pub on the fateful evening of Aug. 25, 2021, the night Juan Morales-Rivera, 40, of Worthington was found dead just beyond the Pub’s back door.

Apmann, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Morales-Rivera, again sat quietly at a table facing the witness stand and District Court Judge Christina Wietzema. Like his attorney, Philip Elbert, Apmann seemed to be listening closely to testimony.

There were no visible reactions from Elbert, or Apmann, beyond the occasional objection by Elbert.

Many of the witnesses heard similar questions from John Gross of the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and Cottonwood County Attorney Nick Anderson. They took turns questioning witnesses for the prosecution. They wanted to know how Morales-Rivera interacted with others over the course of the evening, whether he seemed intoxicated and whether people saw him with large amounts of money.

Several of those who testified today said that later in the evening Morales-Rivera had shown signs of intoxication — slurring his words and unstable on his feet. There was also some rude behavior by Morales-Rivera at the bar that night, according to at least two witnesses who testified today. His behavior was a topic that was emphasized, at times, by Elbert.

Meanwhile, it appears the whereabouts of Morales-Rivera’s money remains a central topic in the prosecution’s case. The amount of cash mentioned by witnesses ranged from $200 to $400. A bartender said that at times Morales-Rivera left the money sitting on the bar and he had to be told to put it away.

There were also questions from prosecutors about Apmann’s interaction with Morales-Rivera. According to testimony from a couple of witnesses, there were no signs of friction while the two played a couple of games of pool just a short time before both went out the Pub’s back door, along with Apmann’s daughter, Alex, for a smoke.

However, Alex Apmann said her father and Morales-Rivera had been arguing, on and off, during their pool games.

Several witnesses said when Apmann and Morales-Rivera went outside for a smoke, it was the last time they saw Morales-Rivera alive.

In a recorded conversation between Apmann and Investigator Donna Marcy on the night of Morales-Rivera’s death, Apmann said that the second the two got outside, Morales-Rivera hit him in the head and that moments later they were wrestling on the ground.

Testimony today by Alex Apmann, matched her father’s description of what happened in those next few minutes outside. She said her father put Morales-Rivera “in a kind of choke hold” and that she heard her father saying things like, “stop hitting me, stop fighting.”
In yesterday’s audio testimony to Investigator Marcy, Apmann said that he believed Morales-Rivera had passed out and that he was “absolutely breathing” when he left the scene. He added that he was worried Morales-Rivera would “come to” and attack him, so he and his daughter hustled to their vehicle and left the bar. They returned later, upon learning that police and EMTs had been called to the bar.

At the end of the Thursday’s testimony, Judge Wietzema told jurors that Friday’s testimony at the Cottonwood County Courthouse would begin at 9 a.m. It appears the case will see a few more prosecution witnesses, before Elbert calls his first witnesses for the defense.
Check Citizen Online at www.windomnews.com Friday evening for an update on this trial.

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