Bushaw murder-trial jury hears from defendant’s ex-girlfriend

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The prosecution might rest its case today in the trial of the two remaining defendants in the February 2009 West Seattle murder of Steve Bushaw.

We were in court for the afternoon session on Wednesday, which included the end of testimony by another of the detectives in the case, talking about cell-phone records – which are key to the prosecution’s case – and the testimony of a woman who says defendant Bryce Huber, with whom she had been romantically involved, drove to see her in the Tri-Cities the day after the shooting.

We did not have a reporter in the courtroom for the morning testimony by Detective Dunn, who was being questioned by defendant Brandon Chaney‘s lawyer Jim Roe when court resumed after the lunch break. Roe’s questioning focused on how cell-phone records show text messages versus voice calls, and how a call might show on records if one of the parties is using an earpiece. He was asked when the last call was shown on the day of the shooting, February 1st, 2009, from the phone of Danny O’Neal, one of two men who have pleaded guilty to firing the shots that killed the 26-year-old victim; he said that was at 3:44 pm that afternoon, and no more activity was shown on that phone until 1 am on February 2nd (about an hour and a half after the shooting). It also was re-established that text messages do not show up as activity through a geographically located cell-phone antenna site (some of the evidence presented, as noted in earlier coverage, has been in the form of maps showing cell sites used by the phones of various key figures in the case).

Then Stephanie took the stand.

Questioned by prosecutor Jeff Baird, she said she had grown up in the Tri-Cities but lived in Seattle from 2006 until the start of 2009. That’s where she said she met Huber, after he put his local condo up for rental, and her then-roommate saw the ad. At the time, she said, Huber wasn’t living at the condo; he said he was living in Las Vegas. She and her roommate moved in around May or June of 2008. Her roommate, she said, decided to move out after they discovered a foreclosure notice on the condo door; Stephanie, however, decided to stay, and kept paying rent.

Then, she said, Huber let her know he needed to move back into the condo, and she could either move out or see if a roommate situation would work out with him. She said it did, but there was no romantic relationship until after she left Seattle in January 2009; they stayed in phone contact, and that’s how it developed, she said.

During their long-distance friendship, she said Huber told her about the home-invasion robbery that had targeted a friend of his (who we have not named in our coverage, as he is a crime victim), someone she said she had met before. “He told me that a couple guys rushed (his friend’s) house and beat him up really badly.”

Baird asked, “What does ‘rush’ mean?”

Stephanie replied, “Break in, beat him up, and ask him stuff.” Asked for a motive, she said Huber had said the robbers “wanted the money and the drugs,” and that he had said he knew who did it.

Baird: “Who?”

Stephanie: “‘Steve’.”

She went on to testify that while she had never met Steve, Huber knew him because they worked together “down at the docks, the shipyard.” She said Huber was “mad” about what had happened to his friend (the home-invasion-robbery victim), and had said “he felt responsible because he was the one who introduced Steve and (the robbery victim),” for “the drug hookup.” (Though Stephanie’s testimony did not go into what kind of “drug hookup,” earlier information in the case has indicated that involved dealing in marijuana.)

According to Stephanie, Huber said he “can’t let (Steve) get away with it, something needs to be done, and he needs to take care of it, and he needs to die.”

“What did you say when Huber said that?” asked the prosecutor.

“I just told him, I thought he was mad, and his best friend just got badly hurt, and I said, ‘you’re just mad, let it go, try to relax’.”

She said that wasn’t the only time he brought up the incident and his feelings about it.

On February 2nd, 2009, she said, Huber called her in the Tri-Cities and said he was going to come see her, because “he said he needed to get out of town.” A few hours later, she said, he arrived, accompanied by someone she identified as “Johnny,” saying she’d met that person before while living at Huber’s Seattle condo.

While visiting her, Stephanie said, Huber said, “We took care of it.”

“Did you know what he was talking about?” asked Baird.

“I had an idea.” Asked if Huber explained what he meant, she said, “He told me he met up with Steve to have a beer and they sat out on the patio, and as soon as he saw the car pull up, he told Steve they should go, and they left the restaurant and walked across the street, and that’s when they popped him.”

Stephanie said Huber did not elaborate further, but, asked by Baird what he told her he had done, she replied: “He just walked away.”

During that visit, she said, he used the Internet at her residence: “To show me the article (reporting) that Steve had died. He said, ‘this is him, this is what happened, but my name’s not in the article, so they’re not after me’.”

Huber and “Johnny” stayed the night, she said, and then left, telling her they were going to Idaho. She said she saw him again a few days later because he had left some keys behind at her house. He later told her he was going to move to Idaho, she said, and that’s where he was when she next saw him, staying with Cara (an earlier witness in the trial).

“Why was he staying with her?” asked Baird.

“He needed to stay off the radar.” That visit was when they became intimately involved, said Stephanie; they stayed in contact by phone, and months later, she said, he said he was moving to California to live with his sister, and then he asked her to travel with him to Belize. At first, Stephanie said, she was excited about the prospect, but then changed her mind, although she still went to Mexico to meet him, and after telling him she wasn’t going along with him, she went on to Costa Rica. She explained she had nonrefundable tickets.

Eventually she went back to the Tri-Cities, and after that, unemployed, she accepted her mother’s offer to go live with her in Las Vegas, where she stayed for about a month. Huber visited her there, she said, having called from Seattle, saying he was back in the U.S. He stayed with her and her mother in Vegas for a week, and their romance continued, she said: “We were together … I loved him. He told me he wanted to change and be a better person. I said I cared about him, but after a while, it got old.” Nonetheless, he asked her to move to Portland with him; in June or July of 2009, she said, she did, staying with him there for five days before “I’d seen some things since I’d been staying with him that didn’t sit right with me, and I didn’t want to be in that type of relationship any more.”

After leaving, she said, she had seen him only once more – when she went back to Portland to get some of her things – before seeing him in court during her Wednesday testimony.

Then in August or September, she testified, she went to Seattle to visit friends and ex-co-workers, and found out that a homicide detective had gone to her former place of employment, looking for her. He left a card; it was Detective Cooper (the lead detective in the case, who has been at the prosecution table throughout the proceedings), and she said she called him when she got back home in the Tri-Cities, adding that the detective came to visit her there.

Defense lawyers took up the questioning after the ensuing afternoon break. Chaney’s lawyer Roe asked if his client ever had been mentioned, or if there was any talk of “conspiracy” in the shooting. Stephanie answered no to both.

When Huber’s lawyer Tony Savage followed with his questions, he asked for some clarification on the romance timeline between Stephanie and his client – end of February 2009, beginning of March, she said – and then asked again about the details of what she said Huber had told her about the night of the shooting. She repeated that he had said he and “Steve” were sitting on the patio, that Huber had seen a car – “a car?” asked Savage; “THE car,” replied Stephanie – pull up, and suggested that they leave, and “that’s when Steve got popped.”

Savage: “He never said who did the popping?”

Stephanie: “No.”

After that, a few more questions from Baird; Stephanie described Huber’s talk of the home-invasion robbery as “an ongoing conversation that never really fizzled out.” The prosecutor asked what she remembered reading in the article about the shooting that she said Huber looked up online while visiting her: “That there was a shooting in West Seattle … and that Steve Bushaw was shot and taken to the hospital.”

Roe asked her one more time if his client Chaney’s name had ever come up, and again she replied, no.

With no further questions from any of the lawyers, her testimony was over, and court subsequently ended for the day. Baird told Superior Court Judge Joan DuBuque that he planned to call Detective Cooper back to the stand next, and had no witnesses planned after that; Roe said Chaney would likely testify, and that he had one other witness after that. Savage told the judge that Huber probably won’t testify.

We’ll be back in court as proceedings resume after 9 this morning; our trial coverage is archived, newest to oldest, here.

7 Replies to "Bushaw murder-trial jury hears from defendant's ex-girlfriend"

  • mookie August 18, 2011 (10:03 am)

    Chilling. She becomes romantically involved with someone after they admit to her they’d helped kill someone. Gah.
    At least she testified against him. The being “on the patio” and seeing “the” car drive up is confusing and doesn’t gel with the hit being arranged and facilitated by phone, but the rest supports what other witnesses have said and it looks damning for Huber. Not surprised he probably won’t be taking the stand.
    I hope justice prevails for Steve, his family and friends.

  • msc August 18, 2011 (2:09 pm)

    Was it ever proven that Steve was involved in the home invasion that started all this?

    • WSB August 18, 2011 (2:12 pm)

      Police never declared him a suspect; neither he nor anyone was ever charged. And moments ago here in court, Detective Cooper was questioned about that. Steve Bushaw’s phone records during the time of the home-invasion robbery did NOT seem to jibe with the claim by the robbery victims that the robbers were continuously on the phone with someone throughout the incident. Det. Cooper testified that one of the defendants had told him he thought another person (whose name I hadn’t heard before in the case) was a potential suspect. – TR

  • skyblue August 19, 2011 (12:48 am)

    WSB – great continuing coverage. I’m reading every article as you post it. Thank you.

  • Mao August 19, 2011 (9:17 am)

    WSB – Thank you for the indepth coverage of this case. I have followed every entry since the arrests took place. Believe it or not I worked with one of the confessed shooters and actually shared a vanpool to work the 9 months following the shooting and prior to his arrest. Crazy to think you are riding to work every day with a cold blooded murderer. Goes to show you that people can certainly live duel lives. He was straight as an arrow as far as we could see. Thanks for the updates. I haven’t seen anything about Dan O’Neal testifinying, wasn’t that part of the plea?

  • imagine August 19, 2011 (9:54 am)

    There’s 2 sides to every story. We’ve only heard 1…

  • SeenIt... August 21, 2011 (12:02 am)

    As somebody who has been in court multiple times during this trial, I cannot even imagine there being any side to this story that would warrant what these animals did to Steven…I have seen the phone call records, I have heard MULTIPLE witnesses place them there that sad night….I pray daily they are found guilty and spend life in prison, even that in my own mind is too good…

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