OGDEN — Calls from jail suggest the two defendants in a murder case are pointing the finger at one another as to who shot and killed a homeless man in August near an Ogden pond.
Weber County residents Cory Michael Fitzwater, 35, and Dalton James Aiken, 28, were present in court with their attorneys Wednesday morning for a preliminary hearing in front of 2nd District Judge Camille Neider.
Each are charged with one count of murder, a first-degree felony, and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony.
On Aug. 16, the body of 28-year-old Brian Racine was discovered at a transient camp near Ogden’s 21st Street Pond around 4 a.m. after someone living at the camp found the body and called 911. Police first categorized Racine’s death as “suspicious,” but it was later revealed that Racine had apparently died from a single gunshot wound to the head. Days later, the two were accused of killing Racine and indicted in district court.
Evidence found at the scene was the subject of Wednesday’s hearing. Three police officers involved in the case testified during the hearing.
First was Steve Haney, a member of the county’s homicide task force and a detective for the Weber County Sheriff’s Office. Haney said he was called to the scene a few hours after the body was found. As prosecutors showed photos of the scene, Haney gave context.
He said the transient camp where the body was found was roughly 150 yards from the paved path that circles around the pond. In order to get to the camp, investigators had to go through thick brush and tree limbs. At the site, Racine’s body was laying near a campfire, a small stream of blood pooled under the 28-year-old’s head. Investigators found a spent .45 caliber casing on a mattress pad next to Racine’s body, Haney said.
About an hour before Racine’s body was found by police, a white truck driven by Aiken was pulled over after leaving W. 17th Street, just north of the pond. When a Weber County Sheriff’s deputy approached the vehicle and talked to the driver, he noticed the corner of a baggie with marijuana in it sticking out of the driver’s pocket, according to testimony from the deputy, Brexton Winterbottom. The driver — whom police believe to be Aiken — was arrested shortly after.
Fitzwater was said to be in the passenger seat of the car during the traffic stop. Another deputy, Noah Shears, said Fitzwater was acting strangely during the traffic stop. Body camera footage played at the Wednesday hearing showed Fitzwater holding his hands in the air despite being told by police he could relax. He later told police that he was intoxicated at the time of the traffic stop.
During the traffic stop, police found a loaded .45 caliber handgun in the backseat along with three .45 caliber bullets in Aiken’s pocket, Haney said. Police also found a black ski mask in the truck covered with twigs, moss and debris that Haney said is consistent with the plants found near the crime scene.
According to charging documents, the handgun found in the car matched the spent bullet casing found next to Racine’s body.
While Haney was on the stand, prosecutor Matthew Jensen played two phone calls made from the Weber County Jail that featured each defendant calling family members after their arrests in connection to the alleged murder.
The first call placed was from Aiken to his father.
“I got in trouble, dad,” he said. “Cory killed someone, and he said it was me.”
Aiken went on to tell his father that Fitzwater “shot a homeless guy for no reason,” and he had no idea the shooting would take place.
In a call to his wife, Fitzwater said he was in jail and that Aiken was blaming him for Racine’s death. “They got me in here for murder,” Fitzwater said. “Dalton shot a guy.”
The same day as the shooting, Aug. 16, Haney interviewed Aiken about the murder. Aiken allegedly told police the two had been drinking earlier in the day before the two went to the 21st Street Pond to smoke marijuana, according to Haney.
The two walked through the thick brush until they came upon the transient camp. Fitzwater allegedly tried to wake up Racine by nudging Racine’s mattress pad with his foot. Aiken told police he was roughly 20 yards behind when Fitzwater allegedly shot Racine in the head. Aiken began running toward his car. Fitzwater got back to the car about 20 minutes later, Aiken allegedly told police.
Haney later interviewed Fitzwater, who said he was in the area around Racine’s time of death, but said he did not hear any gunshots, according to charging documents. More recently, on Dec. 6, Haney interviewed Fitzwater again with his attorney present.
During the more recent interview, Fitzwater reportedly told Haney that Aiken “wanted to go on an adventure” that night. After leaving the paved trail, the two neared the camp, where Fitzwater said he nudged Racine to try and wake him up. He said Aiken was behind him until he heard someone come around his right side. Then, according to Haney, Fitzwater “said he heard a boom.” Fitzwater told Haney he didn’t see a gun or precisely know the boom was a gunshot, but turned and ran anyway.
Police took photos of Aiken and Fitzwater’s legs and hands after their interviews. In court, Haney showed the two had cuts and scrapes on their hands and legs, which he says would be consistent with running through the thick brush near the pond and the transient camp.
Both Aiken and Fitzwater declined to testify during the hearing.
After hearing testimony, Neider ruled there was sufficient evidence to move the case forward. Trial dates were also set for both Fitzwater and Aiken, and are set to begin on June 4, 2019 and continue throughout the month. Their next appearances in court are scheduled for Dec. 17 in Ogden’s 2nd District Court.
Aiken and Fitzwater are being held without bail at the Weber County Jail.