- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

COQUILLE, Ore. (AP) - Nearly 10 months after the body of Forest Martin was found on the tide flats just south of Coos Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant No. 2, the trial for his alleged killer has begun.

Shawn Kristopher “Sick Boy” Yamate is charged with murder, abuse of a corpse, assault and multiple charges related to witness tampering.

Yamate and another man, Christopher “Ghost” Gonzales, were arrested in late June of 2015 after allegedly bludgeoning Martin to death. Martin’s cause of death was ruled to be from brain bleeding resulting from a skull fractured by a brick. Gonzales pleaded guilty to reduced charges in January in exchange for testifying against Yamate.

It was Katherine Sackett’s birthday, and she was at O’Brady’s - a tavern on Newmark Avenue - when she met Sean Laich. Both testified Wednesday that they left the bar together after about an hour and, after getting beers at the nearby 7-Eleven convenience store, went down to the beach.

The two said they sat and talked in their truck for a bit, before Sackett got out and went down to the beach, with Laich following shortly after.



“It was a warm night,” she said as District Attorney Paul Frasier questioned her.

Sackett said that right away, she saw something strange on the tide flats. It was late, around 1 a.m. on June 27, 2015, and the tide was still going out.

“We were were joking, we thought it might be a cow or something,” Laich said.

Sackett said she grew up upriver on the Coos River, and her family would occasionally have to recover a cow that fell in the water and drowned.

But when Laich got closer, he could see that it was the body of a man, naked from the torso up, a sheet or blanket around his waist, his legs bound together with rope, one foot missing a shoe.

“I was very disturbed, I was upset, I was yelling, I was crying, I didn’t understand,” Sackett said.

After walking around the body, making sense of what they had found, the two both said they went back to their truck where they talked it out and called 911.

But why, asked Yamate’s attorney Marc Friedman, did they not call authorities right away?

“I had to think about it, make a rational decision,” Laich said, adding that he had been drinking shortly before making the grisly discovery.

“We were afraid,” Sackett said. “Who knows who did it and where they’re at.”

Coos Bay Police Officer Pete Kirk later testified that he spoke with Laich and Sackett and then secured the scene until more police arrived, at which point he was allowed to leave. Kirk said he spotted tide-washed footprints and bicycle tread marks in the sand near where Martin’s body lay. Sackett said he followed the bicycle tracks for about 15 minutes, looking for anyone with sand on their pants or tires, before giving up the search.

Detective John Riddle was in charge of collecting evidence.

There were marks in the sand, which Riddle said indicated that Martin’s body was dragged from a nearby wooded area. The marks were partially brushed away, which Riddle said was done with a tree branch in order to conceal the drag marks. Riddle said he even found the likely tree branch where Martin’s killer snapped off a piece.

Then there was an abandoned campground, with signs of a fire and a pool of blood, which lab tests later confirmed was Martin’s to a statistical certainty, Frasier said.

However, Friedman pressed Riddle about the evidence.

What steps, Friedman asked, had police taken to secure the crime scene? Riddle responded that officers were posted to keep out the public, and crime scene tape was put up to do the same.

Riddle said officers were careful when moving around the scene not to disrupt tracks in the sand, even though their investigation had a finite amount of time before the tide came back in. One officer kept a scene log book, tracking the comings and goings of officers.

Frasier has several witnesses he said he plans to call. In addition to Gonzales, Frasier said he plans to call a several witnesses who will testify they heard Yamate say he killed Martin, and several other witnesses who said Yamate plotted to silence those witnesses while in custody at Coos County Jail.

Friedman was critical of the state’s investigation.

“This was not an open, unbiased investigation,” he said in his opening argument Wednesday. “They relied upon the statements of drunks and transients to guide them on this case.”

Friedman said he planned to prove that those witnesses offered inconsistent testimony, with their stories changing over time.

He also said his client was an easy target, with his face tattoos.

“Right now, Mr. Yamate sits there, and there’s no denying he might look like a bad guy,” Friedman said.

___

Information from: The World, https://www.theworldlink.com

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