[Vision2020] Witnesses share accounts of Moscow shootings

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Fri Jul 17 08:13:20 PDT 2015

Courtesy of today's (July 17, 2015) Spokesman-Review.

Witnesses share accounts of Moscow shootings
Witnesses from the Jan. 10 shootings in Moscow, Idaho, that left three people dead faced the alleged shooter, 29-year-old Moscow resident John Lee, in court for the first time Thursday during a preliminary hearing.

Following the hearing, Lee was bound over to the Latah County 2nd District Court on three charges of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery. He is scheduled to enter a plea on Aug. 4 and will face the death penalty or three life sentences, plus 15 years and $100,000 in fines, if found guilty on all four charges.

Lee is accused of killing three Moscow residents, David Trail, Belinda Niebuhr and his adoptive mother, Terri Grzebielski, and shooting Michael Chin, formerly of Moscow.

Chin, 39, a Seattle civil rights attorney, said during the preliminary hearing he had been avoiding all media coverage of the incident that nearly claimed his life. 

“I had not realized there were other people that had lost their lives from this,” he said in front of the courtroom.

Chin testified he had been in Moscow visiting his parents that weekend and was in a meeting with David Trail at the Northwest Mutual office when Lee allegedly walked in and shot both men.

When the defense asked Chin if the shooter was the defendant, Chin responded, “I would say 80 percent I’m sure.” 

“What I recognize is more of his build, his body type. I think the facial expression,” he said. “… He had no expression at all.”

Chin said he and Trail were sitting at desks in the back office when they heard a screen door open and footsteps in the reception area. Chin said Trail had a “puzzled” look on his face, as if he were confused as to who would be coming into the office on a Saturday afternoon. The suspect then opened the door and, without saying a word, opened fire on Trail, firing between four and six shots, Chin said. The shooter left the room.

“I saw Dave Trail pretty much fall from his chair on to the floor, face down,” he said. “I could tell he was still alive, because he was kind of struggling. … It appeared he was trying to crawl underneath the rolltop desk.

“… Then, just seconds later, (the shooter) came back and pointed the gun at me and shot me twice.”

Chin said the shooter shot Trail about four more times after he noticed Trail was still moving. While in a state of shock on the floor, Chin said he dialed 911 from his cellphone and only noticed he was injured when he saw blood on the phone.

Chin said he has been contemplating why the shooter didn’t kill him.

“I believe if he wanted to, he would’ve done so,” he said.

Chin remained in the courtroom for the remainder of the morning and listened to testimony from other witnesses, including Arby’s employees and a taxi driver, Bobby Gebrehiwet, who allegedly followed Lee from Arby’s to a house on Veatch Street, where Lee’s adoptive mother lived.

‘Do you remember me?’
Arby’s employee Sydney Jones said she, two other employees, and the general manager, Niebuhr, were working Jan. 10 when a man she identified as Lee walked in and asked to speak to a manager. Next, Jones said she saw Lee engaged in conversation with Niebuhr.

Katelyn Capps, another Arby’s employee working that day, said she heard Lee say, “Do you remember me?” She testified he then pulled a handgun out of his pocket.

Jones testified, “He tried firing it, but it wouldn’t fire. I’m guessing it jammed.”

Jones said employees rushed to the nearest doors and she saw Niebuhr run toward the drive-thru window. Capps said she heard five more shots as she ran through the parking lot.

Niebuhr was found outside the drive-thru window on the ground and with multiple gunshot wounds.

Following the suspect
As employees fled from the restaurant, Gebrehiwet was pumping gas nearby. Rather than getting in his car or running like others were, he said, he watched Lee.

“I don’t know why I did it,” he repeatedly said during the hearing.

He said Lee exited the restaurant and stood for a second with a “heartless” expression on his face. Lee then allegedly got in his car and turned toward state Highway 8. Gebrehiwet said he followed Lee, even passing cars and running red lights to do so.

Gebrehiwet said he and Lee made eye contact in Lee’s rear view mirror on Jackson Street.

“I think that was the only time I was scared for my life, thinking he had spotted me,” he said.

Gebrehiwet followed Lee while he stayed on the phone with 911. After Lee allegedly parked on Veatch Street outside the Grzebielski home, Gebrehiwet said he circled the block two times, and on his way back for a third pass, said he witnessed Lee leaving toward the highway. 

Latah County sheriff’s deputies responded to a welfare check at the Veatch Street residence later that evening and found Grzebielski dead.

Pullman police Officer Mike Crow spotted Lee in Pullman. Crow said police attempted a traffic stop but Lee fled, driving at speeds up to 110 mph between Pullman and Colfax. About a mile south of Steptoe, Crow said, Lee lost control of his vehicle and spun into the side of the road, where he was taken into custody.

Spent rounds, shell casings
During a search of Lee’s vehicle, multiple handguns and boxes of ammunition were allegedly found. Ballistics tests on the guns, shell casings and live ammunition found at the crime scene allegedly show all of the shots were fired from the 9 mm Smith and Wesson handgun found in Lee’s car.

“I think there is substantial evidence in this record,” said Latah County Magistrate Judge John Judge. “That’s evidenced certainly by just the manner in which these killings occurred, the number of times the victims were shot, the apparent deliberation to deploy in killing the victims.”


John Lee joins his attorney, Deborah McCormick, after being escorted into Latah County 2nd District Court.



Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares"
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
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