Less than a year out of police academy, Logan Plummer responded to his first homicide call.
The McPherson police officer testified Tuesday he arrived at 548 Eshelman, just a block from McPherson College football field in a more affluent part of town, after the call came in at 7:15 p.m. April 14. Noticing signs of a break in, Plummer and another officer cautiously proceeded into the home and found the body of 58-year-old Stevan Carlson, 58.
Lacerations were visible on Carlson’s neck, his pockets turned inside out, with credit cards and a pool of blood around him, and what appeared to be a bread knife at his feet, Plummer told a judge.
In the preliminary hearing against Travis Belt, 25, the son of a convicted murderer, the state’s witnesses did not discern whether the knife was used in self-defense or in the killing.
Craig Shelton, 44, now an inmate at McPherson County Jail, testified to seeing the feet of a body that ended up being Carlson and immediately leaving to call 911. Shelton said he knew Carlson because of their mutual involvement with drugs.
Shelton testified to riding his bicycle that day and stopping by Carlson’s home, because of chatter he heard earlier in the day. Talk at Chris Gonzalez’s trailer with Travis Myers circulated around burying a body, Shelton said.
Shelton said they planned to trade a TV for drugs to Tim Schrock, but the plan fell through. Schrock has been subpoenaed to testify yet law enforcement was unable to find him, Assistant Attorney General Amanda Voth said.
During cross examination by attorney Kevin Loeffler, Shelton said he does not remember ever meeting Belt.
Tamica Sanchez, another inmate at the county jail, said she spent the night in Gonzalez’s trailer. Sanchez said she was sleeping inside the trailer and woke up when the men started to talk that morning.
Sanchez said the day before she was at Carlson’s home smoking methamphetamine with Carlson, Steve Ratzlaff and Belt, with whom she used to be intimate.
“Never known him to be violent,” Sanchez, 33, said about Belt.
She remembered Carlson cooking ham and eggs while they all smoked.
Later on the night of April 14, Det. Jordan Baxter saw Belt at Walmart. Baxter said he then saw Carlson’s 1990s white GMC pickup truck leaving the parking lot.
Belt fit the description of someone who stole from the retailer. Following the trail, police went to Carlson’s home and the man conceded he allowed Belt to borrow the truck.
Baxter remembered he'd seen that truck a lot and that Carlson was a known drug dealer who was under surveillance a couple days prior.
After Walmart, Belt made his way back to the trailer park between Hickory and Kelly streets where Gonzalez lives, Samuel Ratzlaff testified. Samuel Ratzlaff, the brother of Steve Ratzlaff, said he eventually gave Belt a ride to Carlson’s early on the morning of April 14.
A detective testified a video surveillance showed a Chevrolet Suburban similar to Samuel Ratzlaff’s SUV heading toward Carlson’s home at 5:10 a.m. Samuel Ratzlaff said he dropped Belt off a couple blocks away. Samuel Ratzlaff said he then watched Belt head toward Carlson’s corner lot home.
Sarah Allen said Belt woke her up at her home in the trailer park around 6:30 a.m. asking to “burn something” in her pit.
The items recovered from the pit include charred clothes.
Belt was arrested on April 16. At Belt’s mother’s home, police said they found two air compressors and an electronic testing meter that belonged to Carlson.
At Gonzalez’s, police said they found a bike cart, air compressor, space heater and shop vac that also belonged to Carlson. The shop vac had the initials EMI on it, police said.
Carlson owned a company called Electrical Maintenance & Installation. Carlson’s truck was found a couple blocks from Gonzalez’s trailer.
Belt is the son of Douglas Belt, who died while on death row on April 13, 2016. Douglas Belt, also known as the “I-70 rapist,” murdered Lucille Gallegos in 2004. Police never found the head of the Wichita woman.
Travis Belt faces charges of first-degree murder, or in the alternative premeditated first-degree murder, along with burglary and two counts of theft; one from allegedly stealing a TV, printer, roof rack and speakers at Walmart that night. Police believe he may have stolen a knife as well.
Travis Belt has over a dozen convictions since 2012. The charges range from possession of drugs to theft to aggravated assault.
The state said it has four more witnesses subpoenaed to testify at the hearing that continues Wednesday before McPherson County District Judge John Klenda.