Chesterton Tribune



Defense questions Nicole Gland's former boyfriend, Upper Deck owner

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The man who was dating and living with Nicole Gland at the time of her murder testified yesterday about his movements the day Gland was murdered.

Santos Ortiz testified he and Gland had been dating and living together in Portage for about two months at the time of her murder. He said he had been worried that she didn’t come home after work on April 19, but it wasn’t unusual for her to spend nights with her parents or a friend, Tammy.

Christopher Dillard’s defense attorney Russell Brown questioned Ortiz’s whereabouts the night of the murder.

Gland was killed behind the Upper Deck Lounge, formerly 139 S. Calumet Road, Chesterton, in the early hours of April 19, 2017 after she closed the bar. Dillard, who was a bouncer at Upper Deck, is on trial for her murder and has pled not guilty.

Ortiz said he worked at Walmart in 2017 starting at either 5 or 6 a.m. each day. Ortiz recalled on April 19, 2017 he had been tasked with painting cabinet legs and went home early because he wasn’t feeling right. Throughout his shift, he hadn’t been able to get in contact with Gland, he said.

The last contact Ortiz had with Gland was when he texted her before he went to bed around midnight. He said he told her he loved her and to knock on his bedroom window if he didn’t answer his phone when she came home. He testified she didn’t have a key to his home because he only had one key and wasn’t supposed to copy it.

Ortiz said he was notified of Gland’s death by the mother of his daughter in the early afternoon of April 19. He said his first reaction was to call Nicole’s father, Matthew Gland, and say, “Dad, what happened?” Ortiz said Matt Gland responded, “Please tell me you had nothing to do with this.”

Matt Gland said on the first day of the trial that it had been his first instinct to question Ortiz, though Ortiz and his daughter never had a violent relationship.

Ortiz said he told Matt Gland he wasn’t involved, and went to the Gland home to spend time with her family. He spent at least a half hour there before going home, where he was met by police. Ortiz said he “broke down” upon being taken into custody for questioning by Chesterton Police. He testified he was told he could go after being interviewed and photographed for at least four hours that afternoon. Chesterton Police never collected DNA from Ortiz, though he consented to all searches and requests, he said.

The defense questioned why Ortiz had not provided Gland a key to the home he said they shared and why text records show that her number was not saved in his phone. Ortiz first denied that her number wasn’t saved, then said he didn’t remember if it had been saved or under what name.

Brown asked where Ortiz was the night of April 19 and if anyone could attest to his whereabouts. Ortiz said he was sleeping from about midnight to 5 a.m. Brown responded: “Prove it.” Ortiz said no one had been with him at night, but he didn’t leave his home until he went to work.

Brown also asked if Ortiz had been suspicious that Gland was cheating on him in the days leading up to the murder, and Ortiz said it had crossed his mind. Brown asked if Ortiz suspected Gland was seeing someone else named Pete. Ortiz answered that he didn’t know of any Pete in Gland’s past or at the time of the murder.

Salinas redirected and asked why infidelity had crossed Ortiz’s mind. He said it was because Gland didn’t come home that day, but he and Gland “were on good terms.” “We had our ups and downs. She didn’t come home. I was worried,” he added.

Also on the stand yesterday was Jason Budzevski, former owner of the Upper Deck. Budzevski testified the bar had an alarm and camera system, but the three exterior cameras were broken after being damaged earlier in 2017. He said the bartenders had the code to set or disarm the alarm system, but Dillard did not.

Budzevski said Dillard was not supposed to be at Upper Deck the night of the murder because he had told Dillard to take the weekend off after he heard from Upper Deck bartender Alayna Johnson and Dillard’s then girlfriend Beverly Galle that Dillard had been acting erratically, which Galle said included excessive substance abuse and gambling. Budzevski said Dillard just went quiet when he was told to take the weekend off and did not appear upset.

Budzevski said he last communicated with Gland when she texted him a work question around 10 p.m. on April 18. He also said he had called the bar at the beginning of her shift and told her not to serve Dillard if he came in.

After the murder, Budzevski provided security footage to police and consented to all searches and the collection of DNA and fingerprints, he said.

On cross, Brown asked why Budzevski had a lawyer present at a deposition with the Prosecution in June. Budzevski said the lawyer was a family friend who he asked to come along. Brown asked if Budzevski was aware that lawyer does criminal defense work. Budzevski said his understanding was the friend does a bit of everything.

Brown also asked if Budzeski was friends with a CPD Sergeant who sometimes spent time at Upper Deck. Budzevski said he was, but that was his only friend in the department.

Jurors submitted several additional questions to Judge Jeffrey Clymer. One juror asked if Budzevski had communicated with Dillard about the exterior cameras being out of order. He said he didn’t recall, but Dillard may have known just by virtue of working there.



Posted 10/30/2019




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