Tattoo shop co-worker testifies at Stewart murder trial

Wednesday was day three in the murder trial of an Elkhart tattoo artist.

Todd Stewart,36, faces 65 years in prison if found guilty of murder. He allegedly killed his business partner, Mark Miller, in September 2012.

Miller was found stuffed inside a barrel along the Saint Joseph River on Sep. 20, 2012. Autopsy reports later indicated Miller had been shot in the head with a 22 caliber pistol and then shot in the legs. Investigators testified Miller had also been bound by zip ties and had a bag placed over his head.

On Wednesday, the court heard a handful of testimonies from witnesses, investigators, experts and a co-worker of the defendant and victim.

The jury first heard from Barry Coy, the former owner of a red pickup truck that police believe was used by Stewart to dispose of Miller's body.

Coy testified he was in the process of selling the truck to Stewart in summer of 2012. Stewart was paying Coy weekly installments for the truck, in the meantime, allowing Coy to borrow the truck when necessary.

According to Coy he asked to use the truck on the night of Sept. 7, the last day Miller was seen. The bed of the pickup was full of "debris" and an inustrial-sized barrel, Coy told the jury.

Due to rainy weather, Coy said he told Stewart he wouldn't need the truck until the next day. When Coy returned the following morning, Sept. 8, he found the back of the truck had been "completely" cleaned. The inside floor mats were swept up and the shotgun that was slightly obscured in the backseat the night before was no longer there.

What appeared to be a brand-new barrel-cart replaced the 50 or 55 gallon barrel Coy said he removed and put back when he returned the car.

When Miller's body was discovered a few weeks later, Coy testified investigators contacted him about his truck. At that same time he claimed Stewart asked him not to talk to police because he (Stewart) might go to jail.

Next up to testify was a crime scene investigator who explained that the several industrial barrels found on Stewart's property in Oct. 2012 were not "exact matches" to the one used to discard Miller bodies.

The investigator added that the the zip ties found on the property also were not "exact" matches to the ones used on Miller. Officials also discovered a significant amount of ammunition, including bullets for a 22 caliber pistol. However, no 22 was found.

In fact, no conclusive physical evidence could link Miller to Stewart's property.

That didn't stop prosecutor's from making their case against Stewart.

The prosecution brought in Matt Howard, the only other employee of the tattoo shop where the homicide occurred.

On the night of Sept. 7, 2012, Howard testified he heard what sounded like a gunshot, then moments later was approached by Todd Stewart, who had a gun in his hand. Howard claims Stewart told him, "It's over."

The former tattoo shop employee claimed the gun Stewart held in his hand was the same Colt 22 caliber firearm with a make-shift silencer that Stewart would often shoot in the back of the shop.

On the evening of the murder, Howard said the three of them were the only ones in the shop.

He left Miller outside with Stewart standing at the exit door, and seconds later heard a "loud slapping sound."

When Stewart came inside, Howard said he was scared that he could be killed and "froze."

He testified Wednesday that he went outside and saw Miller's legs sticking out of a large barrel, and that Stewart forced him to help load the barrel into the back of a pickup truck and follow Stewart to his house.

The defense tried to reduce Howard's credibility, claiming what he's told police in the past doesn't match up.

Howard sat silent for months. In court, he tearfully read a letter he carried around with him since the shooting, saying how guilty he felt that he didn't come forward sooner.

He claims Stewart threatened to implicate him and go after his loved ones.

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