Detective: Lindsey changed story about incident multiple times

Benjamin Wayne Lindsey

The Owensboro Police Department detective who investigated the March 2018 death of Jose Chavez testified Wednesday that suspect Benjamin Wayne Lindsey changed his story multiple times about what happened the night Chavez was injured.

OPD Detective Eric Flory said Lindsey, 28, of Owensboro, gave differing views of how Chavez, 59, fell and struck his head on the pavement early on March 4, 2018 on Crittenden Street. Flory also testified that Lindsey changed his account of his attempts to seek help for Chavez.

Lindsey is on trial for second-degree manslaughter. Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Quattrocchi said Lindsey caused Chavez's death by striking him in the head, which caused Chavez to fall and hit his head on the curb. Chavez suffered a skull fracture and brain bleeding, and died 13 days later.

Chavez was found in his car at his home on Wandering Lane after Lindsey entered the home and told Chavez's wife that Chavez was injured at 3:14 a.m. on March 4, more than an hour after the incident.

Flory told jurors Lindsey was not at Wandering Lane when officers arrived. Lindsey was later identified as a suspect from a fingerprint and a palm print taken from Chavez's car, and through Chavez's wife, Terry Chavez, who said Chavez was known to hang out with a man named "Ben" from work.

When Lindsey was interviewed for the first time on March 8, he told Flory that Chavez had punched him earlier in the night while he and Chavez were on the way back from visiting bars and the casino in Evansville. Flory testified that Lindsey said Chavez had tried to attack him again once they got back to Owensboro about 2 a.m., but Lindsey's story changed on several important points.

"The story, every now and again during the interview, would change," Flory said. Lindsey admitted striking Chavez but said it was in self-defense.

"He turned to me with his hands up," Lindsey told Flory in a taped interview played for jurors. "I turned around and he had his hands up by my face, like he was going to shove me, and that's when I hit him."

Flory said Lindsey first said he struck Chavez just once, but later told him he first shoved him away before striking him. Later, Lindsey told Flory he "shoved" Chavez with his fist against Chavez's face before actually striking him.

Lindsey also gave varying accounts of how Chavez fell and told Flory different accounts of taking Chavez from Crittenden Street to Chavez's home on Wandering Lane.

Flory said Lindsey told him that Chavez said he didn't want to go to the hospital.

"He said (Chavez) was up and talking," Flory testified. In the taped interview, Lindsey said Chavez was talking and wanted to be taken home.

Chavez was largely unresponsive when officers found him and never regained consciousness before dying in hospice care.

Lindsey also gave detectives differing accounts of going back to Wandering Lane and checking on Chavez's condition and about trying to get Chavez's wife to answer the door.

In the video, when Flory asked Lindsey why he didn't tell police what happened prior to investigators identifying him and bringing him in for questioning, Lindsey said a nurse at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital told him it wasn't necessary.

Flory said the self-defense claim didn't make sense, because Lindsey said, 'this is for hitting me' just before striking Chavez and causing him to fall.

"The evidence doesn't support it," Flory said. "The provoking actions of Mr. Lindsey does not indicate a defensive strike. I'm not going to believe that, and I won't."

Earlier in the day, Donnisha Griffith, who was with Lindsey, Chavez and another woman when Lindsey struck Chavez, testified she saw Chavez punch Lindsey in the car on their way back to Owensboro from Evansville, but things had calmed down by the time the group reached Crittenden Street, which is where they planned to split up for the night.

Griffith testified she heard a smacking sound and saw Chavez fall and strike his head. "I went into shock immediately," she said.

She testified Lindsey said he was going to take Chavez to the hospital. Someone took Griffith home and Griffith immediately drove to the hospital, but Chavez wasn't there, she said.

"Benjamin was standing in front of him" when Chavez fell. Later, Griffith learned Lindsey had taken Chavez to his house and left him there.

The trial continues at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Daviess Circuit Court.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse.

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