Investigating officers who questioned Scott E. Denno revealed during the second day of trial that he changed his story many times over the course of the investigation of his involvement in the death of Robert Rennie.
Denno, 19, along with Paul Taylor, 39; Michael Rivers, 36; all of Keeseville were each charged with gang assault first degree after investigations by the New York State Police and the Essex County District Attorney’s office. Denno is also charged with manslaughter in the first degree and criminal posession of a weapon.
Day two of the murder trial commenced with interviews of investigating officers and replaying of interviews with Denno in the days following Rennie’s death on Aug. 26, 2012.
New York State Investigator Thomas Houle took the stand first and examined the crime scene layouts submitted by the New York State Police following the investigation, noting the 763 feet of “red spots” that went down a straight line from Front Street in Keeseville to the closed bridge. Houle first called the red spots “pools of blood,” but the description was struck from the court’s record.
Bureau of Criminal Investigation Violent Crimes Unit Investigator Theodore J. Levison was the second witness called to the stand. Levinson said he first interviewed Denno on Aug. 28 outside of the police barracks in Plattsburgh. He said he was called to talk to someone who had come with Michael Rivers that day. Denno referred to Rivers and his wife Angela as “mom and dad” and had been living with the couple on Front Street for a week prior to the interview.
“I asked him to come in and give statement to what he’d done the night before,” said Levison on the stand.
From there Levison said Denno had at no time asked for an attorney or was under arrest.
Levison said he interviewed Denno three times following the first interview and at each point his story of the events on Aug. 26 changed.
After giving the first statement, Denno was read his Maranda Rights, because Levison said he suspected Denno was lying about his whereabouts that night and that from there it would be safer to advise Denno of his rights. The statement was objected by the attorney for the defense and taken from the record.
During the initial interviews Levison questioned a cut under Denno’s eye which he explained happened from an ATV accident in the seventh grade and damage was noticed from Denno’s knuckles which he explained happened when he worked on a farm and, “punched a cow and the knuckle stayed like that.”
The boots Denno had worn during interrogation also were later proved to be the same boots that Denno used to kick Rennie.
Levison said Denno’s story changed after officers informed him that Rivers and Brandon had given more information about Taylor being at the house that night and that they had driven him home. The new information led to more questions about what else Denno had left out.
He told the court that sometimes Samantha LaCroix, a former girlfriend of Taylor and Rennie, was also living with Taylor. Denno said Taylor had sent a text message saying he was waiting for police because he had punched Rennie. At the time of his death, there was an order of protection against Rennie to stay away from LaCroix and Taylor believed the cops were on their way to the residence.
On Sept. 11, 2012, Levison brought Denno back to Plattsburgh for more questioning, where his story changed again.
Denno said he and Rivers saw Rennie walking and Rivers tapped Rennie on the shoulder and the two began exchanging profanities and Rennie initiated a fight which Denno joined into. Denno said Rennie tried to leave while the group stood out of Bezio’s Auto & Marine but Rivers said he couldn’t.
After a physical altercation involving all three men, Denno said they agreed to move their group to another place off of Route 9 and moved to a parking area near Frontier Telephone Company. Denno said he and Rivers carried Rennie, one on each side, to Frontier because Rennie was too intoxicated to walk.
Once there Denno said Taylor came from nowhere and punched Rennie in the back of the head. Denno then kicked Rennie three times before Taylor resumed kicking him.
Angela Rivers, at that time, came out and yelled they were going to kill him according to Denno’s statement.
Denno said “he’s done” Levison said.
Denno said when they left, Rennie was laying facedown in a fetal position but had seen him stand up and started walking down Mill Hill Road, holding his side as they drove away.
Denno told Levison when he got back to the Rivers home Taylor took off his boots up put them up saying “I put these boots to Robert tonight.”
Denno told Levison he felt extremely dirty and he “wanted to take a shower and scratch his eyes out.”
Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague is trying the case with Assistant District Attorney Michael Langey as co-counsel.
Attorney Joe Brennan, working for the Public Defender’s Office, is defending Denno.
Court proceedings will resumed at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday May 2. The court will hear testimony from Coroner Michael Sikirica and will continue with playback of Denno’s interrogations.
Denno was arraigned along with Rivers and Taylor last October; all three remain jailed.
Rivers will be tried separately as well, with jury selection set for May 21.