Opening statements heard for second time in Bismarck murder case

Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 7:14 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - After jurors reached an impasse in a Bismarck murder case last year, the two accused are standing trial again. On March 28, 2021, Reonardo Alexis was shot in the heart and died in his Bismarck apartment. Prosecutors say Kevin Hartson and Devante Evans are responsible for this “drug exchange gone wrong,” but the defense attorneys argue investigators’ tunnel vision led them to accuse the wrong men.

Wednesday, family members of the victim looked on as the latest trial began.

Opening statements started with assistant state’s attorney Dennis Ingold outlining the crime. He told the jury over the next week, the state will show how Kevin Hartson’s black hat, Devante Evan’s cell phone, and tracking data from a rental car place the men at the crime scene.

“[The car] arrives there at 11 p.m. the night of the shooting. The same time that Devante Evans’ cell phone connects by Bluetooth to that vehicle. There’s no location data logged for five minutes, so it’s stationary at Rio’s apartment building for five minutes. And that Toyota Corolla departs Mapleton Ave. at 11:05 p.m. The same time the first 911 call comes in,” said Ingold.

Investigators said the shooting took place between 11 p.m. and 11:05 p.m. They say both men were picked up at the Mexico border days after the murder.

Defense attorneys said it didn’t make sense that the men would carry out the crime.

“To believe the government’s version of the case, you must necessarily believe that Devante was not only in that apartment complex that night but that he would shoot into that apartment knowing his cousin was inside,” said Dean Gregory, defense attorney for Devante Evans.

The defense teams said the DNA of another man was found on shell casings at the scene, someone investigators didn’t pursue. Yet prosecutors had an explanation.

“[That man’s] DNA was found on that casing. Why? Because he was shot [in the hand] right there as he was trying to close the door,” said Ingold.

Even if the state places Evans and Hartson at the crime scene, defense attorney Jackson Lofgren said the state charged the men incorrectly because they can’t prove the elements of murder.

“They want to charge him with murder because they want to convict two people of murder,” said Jackson Lofgren, defense attorney for Kevin Hartson.

On the murder charges, the state will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the men intentionally caused the victim’s death, or, in this case since they aren’t arguing who pulled the trigger, they’ll need to show the death happened in furtherance of another crime, like robbery.

“[A witness’] testimony at the time proves this was not a robbery. He even told police, ‘I don’t think this was planned and it was not a robbery,’” said Lofgren.

That sticking point could be the reason the jury deadlocked in the first trial.

The trial is scheduled through March 3. If convicted, Evans and Hartson could face life in prison.

Previous Coverage: Bismarck murder trial begins for second time

Previous Coverage: Jury hangs in Bismarck murder case after more than eight hours of deliberation