Nephew testifies he helped fleeing suspect accused in double murder
MOORHEAD - Shannon "Little Sam" Wadena didn't recognize the little red car parked in front of his trailer when he came home that Saturday.
Inside, Wadena found his uncle, Tracy Zornes, sitting on the couch.
"He said, 'I'm scared, and I don't know what to do,' " Wadena testified Tuesday on the second day of the double-murder trial for Zornes in Clay County District Court.
Wadena's testimony about helping Zornes on Feb. 20, 2010 - the day after Zornes allegedly killed Megan Londo and John Cadotte in a Moorhead apartment and set it on fire - highlighted a day in which jurors also heard from others who were in the apartment and fire investigators who combed the charred scene for clues.
Wadena, 21, who also was related to Londo, said he had heard about the fire in Moorhead before Zornes showed up at his trailer in the Mahnomen County (Minn.) village of Naytahwaush, allegedly driving Cadotte's red car.
"He said, 'I seen a fire and I was outside, so I headed out,' " Wadena said.
Wadena left the trailer and drove to his mom's house, but when he spotted police there he drove back to the trailer and told Zornes, he testified.
"He said, 'Can we get out of here?' " Wadena said.
At Zornes' request, Wadena said he fetched a gas can from a relative, drove to the village store to fill it up and went back to the trailer. Then, in his white Chevy Caprice, he followed Zornes as he drove the red car to a dirt road in rural Mahnomen County. Wadena pulled in front of him.
Zornes walked up to the Chevy, got a cup of gas and went back to the red car, Wadena said. He said he looked forward and didn't see what Zornes did next.
"You knew what was going to happen?" Assistant County Attorney Heidi Davies asked.
"Pretty much," Wadena said.
Cadotte's burned-out car was found the next day. Moorhead Fire Marshal Rich Duysen testified that while searching the remains of the car, he found the remnants of a smoke detector, which prosecutors allege Zornes removed from the apartment before setting it on fire.
After leaving the red car behind, Wadena said they drove to nearby Bejou, Minn., where they found a friend of Wadena and Zornes made a couple of phone calls. From there they drove to Fargo, where they met Zornes' girlfriend at a motel, Wadena said.
He said she and Zornes talked alone before the two men returned to Bejou.
Wadena said Tuesday he was afraid and didn't ask Zornes about the fire or where he got the red car.
"I guess maybe I didn't want to know," he said.
Back in Bejou, Zornes gave Wadena cash to buy him food, gas and rolling tobacco. They borrowed a blanket and drove to rural Mahnomen County, stopping on a gravel road next to some woods between Naytahwaush and Lengby.
"He got out and said, 'Well, I'm just going to stay here then,' " Wadena said.
Wadena said Zornes did not want him to tell anyone where he was. He said he brought Zornes more food the next morning but didn't go back after that.
Zornes, 38, spent almost two weeks in the woods before authorities found him in a makeshift shelter on March 4 and arrested him on warrants unrelated to the fire - warrants his attorneys contend are the real reason he was hiding.
Another state's witness testified Tuesday that she saw Zornes with a man and woman going into the Moorhead apartment building at 901 9th Ave. S. the night before the fire.
Jodie Anderson of Moorhead said she was visiting her ex-boyfriend in the three-unit building that evening. When she left his upstairs apartment about 10 p.m., she saw a red car pull into the parking lot and three people get out. They exchanged hellos as their paths crossed.
Anderson said that about three weeks after the fire, she saw a picture of Zornes on the Internet.
"It looked like the guy I saw the night before the fire," she said, identifying Zornes in the courtroom.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Mara Rausch, Anderson said when she met with Moorhead police about a week after the fire, she couldn't pick any of the people she saw out of a photo lineup that included Zornes.
Clarence Collins Jr., who also lived in an upstairs unit, said when he arrived home around 10 p.m. the night before the fire, he passed by Cadotte, whom Collins said he recognized from Labor Ready.
"I said like, "What's up? How you doin'?' and he looked back at me like he was scared to death," Collins said.
Later that night, Collins said he could hear people talking and what sounded like a get-together in the apartment below. After 1 a.m., he said he heard "some noise like somebody beatin' on something."
"It was arguing first, then like a little later on, it was sex. And when you hear sex, you know sex," he said.
Collins said he didn't think anything of the arguing because the tenant in the lower unit where the fire started, Cassandra Cruz, argued frequently with her boyfriend.
Defense attorney Joe Parise pointed out that Collins initially told police he heard three to four people downstairs, and that he heard the argument at 4 a.m. and the sex a half-hour to an hour later.
Anderson's ex-boyfriend Joseph Morlan, who lived in the building with his 2-year-old daughter, said he was up all night on the computer because he couldn't sleep. He said he thought he heard "some sex noises" coming from a female downstairs, followed by "some loud smacks" about 20 to 30 minutes later. At about 5 or 5:30 a.m., he said he heard some loud banging.
"What popped into my mind was like a Wiffle Ball bat hitting a leather couch," he said.
Morlan said he saw someone in a black coat and hat leave the apartment in the direction of the parking lot and come back three times between about 3 and 6:45 a.m., but he didn't see the person's face from his windows.
"All I saw was a silhouette," he said.