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Sunday, April 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Fbi Expert Says Suspect’s Jeans Worn By Robber Prosecution Ends Case With Photo Expert

Blue jeans seized from Charles Barbee’s home were the same pair worn during one of last year’s bombings and robberies, an FBI photo expert testified Thursday.

And a military-style poncho found in Verne Jay Merrell’s trailer could be the same one worn by another bank robber, the expert said.

Prosecutors wound down their case against three Sandpoint white separatists Thursday with testimony from photo expert Richard W. Vorder Bruegge and a handful of explosives experts.

Defense attorneys will begin their case this morning by calling a witness who is expected to say Merrell was with him in Colorado at the time of one of the bombings.

Barbee, 45; Merrell, 51; and Robert Berry, 43, are being tried for the second time on charges of bombing Spokane Valley offices of The Spokesman-Review, Planned Parenthood and U.S. Bank and twice robbing the bank in April and July last year.

Their first trial ended in a hung jury three months ago after one juror refused to convict the men on the most serious charges.

Vorder Bruegge testified that fade marks and dark splotches on the hem of Barbee’s J.C. Penney jeans made the expert “100 percent” sure the same jeans were captured on bank surveillance video during the April robbery.

But defense attorneys showed jurors several other pairs of jeans with similar markings and pointed out a slight tear in Barbee’s jeans not seen on the video.

Vorder Bruegge also told jurors the pattern on Merrell’s camouflage poncho lined up at the seams the same way as one captured on bank video during the July 12 robbery.

But he acknowledged other ponchos in circulation likely have the same pattern.

Defense attorneys are expected to counter Vorder Bruegge’s testimony today by calling their own bluejeans expert - a 21-year-old Gonzaga University student who earns extra money by selling used jeans overseas. Defense attorneys also plan to call three of Merrell’s family members and his girlfriend today.

Barbee, Berry and Merrell are charged with eight felonies and face the possibility of life in prison if convicted.

, DataTimes

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