Blood spatter, familial matters in Cierzan murder trial

Signal file photo Linda Cierzan’s husband, Will, disappeared Jan. 26, 2017, after talking to her on the phone. There was no sign of Will when she arrived home that day, and the disappearance of her “sweet husband” is still baffling.
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During the second day of testimony in the preliminary hearing for a man accused of murdering his uncle, the defendant, Daniel Cierzan, listened as an audio recording of his father, Charles Cierzan, told law enforcement officials in February 2020 that he covered for Daniel on the day of Will Cierzan’s disappearance.

During his testimony for the case Wednesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Detective Ralph Hernandez said he asked Charles Cierzan if he had known when his son, Daniel, had gotten back home on Jan. 26, 2017, the day of Will’s disappearance.  

Charles Cierzan told detectives his son had been home when he got home from work that day, between 4-5 p.m., according to Hernandez. Video footage provided to investigators at the beginning of the investigation shows a vehicle similar to the one driven by Daniel Cierzan arriving at his uncle’s home in the morning, leaving only for a brief moment around noon, before parking once again at the home until finally pulling away from Will Cierzan’s home at 5:13 p.m., according to Hernandez.  

The only other vehicle to pull into the home’s driveway during the day was Will’s wife, Linda Cierzan, at 7:28 p.m. She immediately began calling around to find her missing husband. 

However, while in custody on Feb. 5, 2020, Charles Cierzan retracted his Jan. 28, 2017 statement, according to Hernandez. In audio played for the courtroom, the detective on the stand identified Charles Cierzan’s voice recorded during the latest interview answering in the affirmative when asked if he had seen the security camera footage and if he knew that was Daniel’s truck.  

“At what point did you know it was Daniel’s truck,” asks the investigator in the 2020 interview.  

“I knew it was his truck,” said Charles Cierzan. ` 

Upon hearing the audio, Will Cierzan’s family members present in the courtroom became animated. Shocked, his sister Audrea Peck left the courtroom after the prosecution finished playing the recording.   

After the hearing, members of the Cierzan family said their reaction was caused by their surprise due to their hearing Charles Cierzan’s statements regarding his son’s whereabouts for the first time.  

Blood follow-up 

Now the defense counsel’s turn to examine the state’s blood-splatter expert, attorney Andrew Flier began by questioning the merit of the expert’s analysis, noting he was brought into the investigation three years after the initial crime.  

During his testimony, Tom Bevel said he had only seen photographs of the scene and was unable to answer a handful of questions, such as if he could tell how long the blood photographed in various rooms in the house had been there, or if the “drag marks” alluded to in some blood found on some carpet in the house were from a body or from some other catalyst.  

Following a back-and-forth series of objections between Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef and Flier during their respective examinations of the witness, Flier asked the blood expert to summarize what he believes happened in the house Jan. 26, 2017.  

When looking at the blood spatter in various places in the room, Bevel said there had been “wet blood that had been impacted from approximately 4 to 5 feet above the floor.” 

Earlier on Tuesday, Bevel had said blood-spatter experts define “impact” as a blood mist that is caused by an object connecting with a wound area. No murder weapon has been found in the case as of Wednesday.   

DNA 

The second witness of the day, Tiffany Shew, a senior criminalist with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and one of the biochemists who worked on the original investigation, said she confirmed the blood splatters in the home belonged to Will Cierzan.  

The crime-scene investigator said in the initial days following Cierzan’s disappearance that her colleague had gone directly to the scene to confirm the droplet stains around the house were blood. Back at the lab, Shew then created a DNA profile of Will by using his toothbrush.

By using said DNA profile, she said there was “strong support” for the single-source blood samples, meaning that there was an infinitesimal statistical chance that the blood came from someone else.  

Investigators also alleged they found DNA traces belonging to Daniel, Charles and Will Cierzan inside Daniel Cierzan’s Toyota 4Runner, which investigators say was at the scene of the crime. Shew testified that almost all of the evidence collected, from the back of the vehicle to the floor mats to the car’s gas pedal, were blood samples.

Timeline 

In the final testimonies of the day before the courtroom adjourned for recess, Hernandez and homicide Detective John Carlin laid out a timeline of events from their perspective.  

In the initial days of the disappearance, detectives scoured the remote areas of the SCV, including San Francisquito Canyon and Vasquez Canyon, checking for turnouts and hidden places. Helicopters were called in, garbage truck routes and dumpsters behind nearby business were checked. Coroners around the state with John Doe’s in their morgues were called and SCV Sheriff’s Station off-roading vehicles were enlisted. However, no evidence of Cierzan was found or has been found since.  

But video evidence retrieved from a Bank of America near the victim’s home on Cuatro Milpas Street provided a clue, Hernandez said. 

By combining video from the Bank of America, a 7-Eleven and residential security cameras, Hernandez believes they can show Cierzan arrived at his uncle’s house at 9:49 that morning.  

According to his initial testimony, Daniel said he and his uncle drank some beer before heading out to a nearby 7-Eleven to pick up more. After arriving at the 7-Eleven at 12:12 p.m., the alcohol is purchased and both are back home by 12:16 p.m.  

Hernandez testified that Daniel Cierzan said he then went off on his own to smoke marijuana at Central Park and then head home. However, Hernandez said that footage from a neighbor’s  camera shows his car staying in front of the Cuatro Milpas home until 5:13 p.m. The only time the car moves after returning from the 7-Eleven is to move the vehicle in reverse up Will’s driveway at 5:07 p.m.  

At 6:02 p.m., the vehicle is once again spotted by a Bank of America parking lot, conflicting with Daniel’s original statement that said he went home and stayed there after not feeling well at approximately 4-4:30 p.m., Hernandez said. Daniel’s father originally said he would arrive home soon after his son, but the sequence of events for his son’s arrival at their Plum Canyon home versus his own would change in Charles Cierzan’s future 2020 testimony, the homicide detective testified.

On July 31, 2020, Daniel Cierzan would be arrested and later charged with one count of murder.  

The preliminary hearing is expected to continue once again at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the San Fernando Courthouse. At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, the judge is expected to rule whether there is sufficient evidence for Daniel Cierzan to stand trial for murder. 

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