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Jurors in ALS Murder Trial Hear About Lack of Drug Store Video

Testimony in case takes a break for holidays, set to resume Jan. 5

Detective Chris Dallenbach told jurors Thursday that he made multiple attempts to get video surveillance from Rite Aid that would show who picked up a prescription for ALS patient Heidi Good.
Detective Chris Dallenbach told jurors Thursday that he made multiple attempts to get video surveillance from Rite Aid that would show who picked up a prescription for ALS patient Heidi Good. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

On the morning before Christmas, jurors in the trial of two women accused of conspiring to kill a Solvang ALS patient heard testimony Thursday about why they won’t see video surveillance of one defendant picking up a prescription.

A Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department detective and a drug store manager took the witness stand in the Santa Maria trial of Marjorie Good, 89, and Wanda Nelson, 63. 

The women are charged in connection with the death of Heidi Good, who had a lengthy battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. Marjorie Good is Heidi’s mother while Nelson was one of the caretakers for the woman who relied on a ventilator to stay alive. 

Prosecutors contend the women conspired to end Heidi’s life by giving her heavy doses of medication and tampering with the breathing machine. Yet, defense attorneys say the ventilator malfunctioned and that the investigation was flawed. 

When Heidi died March 25, 2013, Nelson was away from the home picking up a prescription antibiotic for her patient. Good reportedly was outside gardening. 

Detective Chris Dallenbach told jurors he made multiple attempts to get video surveillance from Rite Aid, starting in mid-April. 

Dallenbach said he asked store manager Marcus Delfin for the video, choosing a low-key approach in the investigation of the suspicious death.

“I thought Mr. Delfin was very cooperative initially, and I thought he was going to provide what I needed rather quickly,” Dallenbach said.

Yet, after several tries, Dallenbach never received the video and said he never sought a search warrant to obtain the recording.

Good's attorney asked how many times the detective typically contacts somebody before obtaining a search warrant to get the information sought.

"It depends on the circumstances," Dallenbach said.

Later Thursday morning, the store manager testified he tried to access the surveillance video but received an error message. 

“I was kind of unclear on what the error message was so I kept trying. I figured maybe it was just a system glitch … ,” Delfin said under questioning from Senior Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Gresser. “I didn’t understand what it meant at the time so I kept trying.”

Delfin later learned the system only keeps the recordings for a limited time, and found out after talking to a loss-prevention manager that the error message meant the request was too old and the video from March 25, 2013, wasn’t available any longer.

He said he talked to the detective April 22, 2013.

“I believe that’s exactly four weeks if you look at a calendar,” Delfin said. 

Attorney Lori Pedego, who represents Nelson, asked whether Delfin earlier said, during testimony before a Santa Barbara County Grand Jury that indicted the women, the recordings were available for 30 days.

“That was my understanding, but I’ve heard since it’s a four-week period,” Delfin said, adding he was told the amount of time from two different district loss-prevention managers.

He later said he has heard both figures, and added he doesn’t know if the video would have been available based on the time lapse.

“I don’t know which is correct except for when I looked, the video said ‘video unretrievable,’” Delfin said.

He added there have been other times when the video wasn’t available for various reasons.

Dallenbach said he also looked through the store’s receipts — those involving credit card purchases over $25 with a customer signature. The detective said he sought a receipt that had a written signature and corresponded to the transaction involving one of the suspects in the case. 

He also testified he wasn’t aware other detectives had previously obtained a paper copy of the receipt from the victim’s house.

He said he sought the receipt “to help try to identify who was at the store.”

Asked who was the likely suspect in the case initially investigated as a suspicious death, Dallenbach said the two women now on trial were considered possible suspects. 

“The decedent’s husband was a possibility,” Dallenbach added. 

As the day’s testimony started, Judge Rogelio Flores thanked the 24 jurors and seven alternates, noting it’s the first time in his 29 years on the bench testimony in a trial occurred on the morning of Christmas Eve.

“All of us here … are humbled by the sacrifices you make serving on a jury, especially for a trial of this length,” he told jurors and alternatives.

The Nelson jury was dismissed early, while the Good jury heard further testimony related to the elderly’s woman’s statement to Detective Jared Waits she had not communicated with Nelson in several months. 

Good, who turns 90 in February, has returned to the courtroom after missing several days due to illness.

The trial will now take an 11-day break. Testimony, which is expected to wrap up in later January, will resume at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 5.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Marjorie Good listens to testimony Thursday in her trial for allegedly murdering her daughter, ALS patient Heidi Good of Solvang. Click to view larger
Marjorie Good listens to testimony Thursday in her trial for allegedly murdering her daughter, ALS patient Heidi Good of Solvang. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
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