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WIESBADEN, Germany — In a certain but shaky voice, an Army spouse testified Thursday she saw a man other than the accused, Pvt. Nestor K. Velazquez, drop a knife that is at the center of his murder trial.

The morning testimony by defense witness Yasmin Bowlin came shortly after Army prosecutors rested their case against Velazquez, 19, who is charged with unpremeditated murder in the April 18 stabbing death of Santo Scardino.

“Is there any doubt in your mind that this is the man that you saw drop the knife?” defense attorney Capt. Jon Stanfield asked Bowlin, refering to a Moroccan man whose photo he had just given Bowlin. The man was detained a couple of hours after the fatal fight but later released.

“No sir, there is no doubt,” Bowlin said.

Bowlin, the wife of a soldier based in the United States, was in Germany last April visiting friends. She was a designated driver on the night of the incident, transporting friends to the Euro Palace, a nightclub where the death occurred.

The fight unfolded close to where Bowlin was seated. Bowlin said she saw a man dressed in white scurry down a nearby flight of stairs being chased by an unidentified man wearing a dark blue sports jersey.

Asking Velazquez to stand, Stanfield turned back to Bowlin.

“Is this the individual you saw wearing the jersey?” Stanfield asked.

“No sir,” Bowlin replied.

While rushing down the flight of stairs, the man in white almost fell, momentarily losing his left shoe, Bowlin said.

“When he stumbled, he had a hard time catching himself,” said Bowlin, “and that’s when he dropped the knife.”

Shown the presumed murder weapon, Bowlin said she was “positive this is the knife I saw on the stairs that night.”

Bowlin testified that she alerted a bar employee of the knife several minutes later, and a bouncer retrieved the weapon for police.

It was during the brief foot chase, which ended when the pursuer relented, that Bowlin saw Scardino bleeding near the bottom of the stairs.

Bowlin later identified for German police the man in white as he exited the bar. She testified that she told German authorities the man had changed out of his white shoes. The shoes the man was wearing, as well as his clothes at the time of his arrest, were tested but no blood stains were found.

Thursday’s proceedings were rather disjointed, with numerous breaks that sent the six-member panel back and forth between the court and the deliberation room.

After the prosecution rested, Velazquez’s attorneys began their defense. But they grew increasingly frustrated because of the government’s failure to produce witnesses who had been approved. The onus is on the prosecution to produce all witnesses, including those of the defense.

That led to several “stipulations,” or agreements between the prosecution and defense of what a witness would say if able to testify.

The frequent breaks and stipulations were a point of contention.

The defense case “looks like a shotgun blast … and we are being hamstrung because of it,” said Capt. Will Helixon.

Velazquez’s attorneys acknowledged that it was his knife found at the bottom of the stairs and that he sneaked it into the club. However, they portrayed him as a peaceful young man who only carried the knife for protection.

Velazquez’s attorneys said he was trying to break up a fight involving another soldier, and that the fight became a brawl in which the pair were outnumbered.


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