Firearm Evidence Helps Prove Amanda Weldon's Account of Events
By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter
MARENGO – Fingerprints and palm prints found on the shotgun used in the slaying of Amy Gephart belonged to Tonch Weldon's wife Amanda, but they were consistent with someone picking up a weapon, not firing it, a criminalist testified Friday.
Dennis Kern, a criminalist with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said there were other prints on the 20-gauge shotgun but only Amanda Weldon's prints were suitable, not smudged or partial, to use for identification. Kern demonstrated where on the gun the prints were – on the forearm of the gun – near the pump, not close to the trigger.
Amanda Weldon testified Wednesday that she saw her husband shoot Gephart and then himself. After struggling with Tonch Weldon over the gun, Amanda grabbed the gun and tossed it away from him.
Tonch Weldon, 39, of Blairstown, charged with first-degree murder, is accused of fatally shooting Gephart, 35, in the chest before turning the gun on himself June 7, 2009.
Amanda Weldon testified Wednesday the three of them had a sexual relationship but then she and Gephart fell in love and wanted to leave him.
The prosecution rested after firearm and autopsy evidence was presented. The defense started its case with witnesses who testified about Tonch Weldon's character.
The trial will resume 9 a.m. Tuesday in Iowa County District Court. Monday is court service day in the county and the attorneys will use the day to work on jury instructions. The jury could start deliberations as early as Wednesday.
Kern also tested Gephart's shirt for gunshot residue, which was present, along with particles of gunpowder. He said the weapon was about 4 to 8 feet from Gephart when she was shot according the firearm evidence.
Dr. Jerri McLemore, a former associate state medical examiner, testified about the autopsy which showed cause of death was one gunshot wound to the chest and manner of death was homicide.
McLemore said "main damage centered around" Gephart's heart, which had numerous tears, and a portion of her liver also had multiple lacerations and tearing.
"The damage to the heart was a non-survival injury," McLemore said.
Anna Sparrow Evans, 31, a massage therapist from Iowa City, testified for the defense, saying she got involved in a sexual threesome with Tonch and Amanda Weldon when she was 19-years-old. Tonch Weldon approached her about an "experiment," which lasted 10 months to a year.
Evans said they had ground rules to protect the Weldons' marriage – she only had sex with them together, never separately.
Evans remained friends with the Weldons after the sexual relationship ended. Tonch Weldon was always there for her. He helped plan a benefit for her mother who had cancer. He was caring and loving, and was a non-violent man, she said.
Benjamin Tapken, of North English, said Tonch Weldon was a good friend to him and had planned a benefit for him and other cancer patients.
Tapken said Tonch Weldon wasn't easily prompted to anger.
"He was good at turning the other cheek," Tapken said. "He would use talking instead of violence."
Tapken said he was in the process of making rings for Tonch and Amanda Weldon and Gephart before the shooting. They were going to have a commitment ceremony – a symbolic marriage, he said.
Assistant Attorney General Denise Timmins asked Tapken wasn't it Tonch Weldon who asked him to make the rings – not Amanda Weldon or Gephart?
Tapken said only Tonch Weldon.
Steven Schuman, an investigator for Edward Leff, Tonch Weldon's attorney, said he measured the distance from the barn where Tonch and Amanda Weldon were arguing right before the shooting to the house and it was about 50 yards. He also timed how many minutes it was from Blairstown to the Weldon house, which was 15 minutes and 8 seconds.
William Hradek, Tonch Weldon's friend who was at the Weldon's the day of the shooting, testified Thursday he left when Tonch and Amanda started arguing and rode his motorcycle for about 15 or 20 minutes.
The defense is attempting to prove the shooting wasn't premeditated by claiming Tonch Weldon "just snapped" at the moment. The shooting happened within a 15 minute or so time frame.