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Key witnesses refuse to testify in Rushing trial

Thorsten Rushing (Source KSWO) Thorsten Rushing (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) – Another surprise Wednesday at the Thorsten Rushing murder trial as two of the state’s key witnesses backed out of their plea agreements to testify against him.

Cody Davis and Wesley Bankston had both previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the crimes in exchange for their testimony. The judge ruled them both to be in contempt of court, and allowed the state to use previous testimony from Rushing’s preliminary hearing as evidence.

On Tuesday, Ethan Thompson, another man who agreed to testify against Rushing, initially refused to testify until the district attorney gave him a new deal. When the district attorney refused, Thompson ultimately did agree to testify.

It is still unclear as to why Bankston refused to testify, but Davis said he was refusing because he was scared of retaliation for it. The fourth accomplice, Timothy Delahoy, is still scheduled to testify.

That wasn’t the only excitement in the courtroom Wednesday. Defense attorney Stephen Jones asked for a mistrial during testimony from the crime scene investigator, saying the information he was testifying to had not been provided during the trial. The judge refused to grant the mistrial, but did agree to limit the investigator’s testimony to what was written in his report.

The investigator’s testimony came as he walked the jury through chilling picture from the night of the murders, including images of the two victims. He pointed out several inconsistencies that he saw between the physical evidence and Rushing’s story.

He noted that there was an absence of blood below Stefan’s mouth and on another spot inside his nose. He said this indicated that someone had covered Stefan’s mouth and nose at some point. This matches Ethan Thompson’s version of the story that said Thorsten had done that to speed Stefan’s death.

The jury also heard testimony from Lieutenant Justin Thorne of the Lawton Police Department. He discussed an interaction he had with Ethan Thompson. Thorne said shortly after the murders, Thompson led him and other officers to the area where he said him and Bankston had burned the evidence. Thorne testified that they found several shell casings where Thompson said the burning occurred.

A former teacher of Rushing at Lawton High School also testified Wednesday. Cheryl Smith said she taught Rushing his senior year at Lawton High. She said at some point in early January of 2014, Rushing pulled her aside and told her he needed to ask her a question that was off-topic. She said Rushing then asked her how much insurance money he would receive if something were to happen to his father and brother.

In cross-examination, Smith acknowledged that students often ask her weird questions. She also mentioned that she felt Rushing’s father, Uwe, put a large amount of pressure on him.

The state also called two Lawton police officers to the stand on Wednesday. The first officer testified on the phone records of Wesley Bankston, the man who has pleaded guilty to coming to the Rushing household to pick up the evidence and flee with Ethan Thompson. The officer showed phone records that indicated Rushing and Bankston had communicated on the phone more than a dozen times on the day of the murders, including a phone call at 1:56 in the morning, just 10 minutes before Rushing called 911.

The other officer broke down surveillance video that was taken from a convenience store near the Rushing residence. That surveillance showed Bankston walking into the store at 2:03 a.m. Bankston is shown leaving the gas station nearly 30 minutes later. While his vehicle is there, four police cars are shown driving by, heading toward the Rushing household. The officer testified that he had reviewed the dispatch log from that evening. He said he was certain the officers were heading to the Rushing residence because there were no other events occurring at that time that would have required the officers to be dispatched.

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