June 17, 2004
The defense in the murder trial of former Chandler police officer Daniel Lovelace on Wednesday challenged the findings of a firearms expert who determined that an Ahwatukee Foothills woman was shot from behind.
The conclusions of Lucien Haag, a Carefree consultant who reconstructs shooting incidents, led authorities to charge Lovelace with second-degree murder and endangerment for the Oct. 11, 2002, shooting that killed 35-year-old Dawn Rae Nelson.
Lovelace shot her as she fled in her car from a Chandler pharmacy drive-through, where he was investigating her attempt to pass a fake prescription. At issue is whether the shooting was justified.
Lovelace claims that he believed Nelson would have hit him with her car if he hadn't fired.
Haag testified that the fatal bullet traveled at angles slightly down and from slightly behind. But Haag agreed with defense attorney Craig Mehrens that methods he used in determining where the shot was fired from could be flawed.
For instance, Haag conducted an experiment on the resting point of ejected bullet casings to test Lovelace's claim of where he was when he fired. Mehrens pointed out to Haag that he has written in scholarly papers that "cartridge case location" is "fraught with the greatest uncertainty."
Haag also agreed that sticking rods through a corpse, as he did with Nelson, can't show the exact path of the bullet.
The trial continues today in Maricopa County Superior Court in Mesa with a pathologist who conducted an autopsy on Nelson to take the stand.