Sattler’s friend testifies on day six of Frisco murder trial
June 24, 2015
The defense began day six of the trial of Charles Sattler with the testimony of his longtime friend, Charles Upchurch. Upchurch was with Sattler the morning of the incident at the Snowshoe Motel in Frisco, on April 14, that lead to the death of local chef Blake Bostic.
Upchurch's testimony matched those of Ryan Stevens — Bostic's friend who was also present that morning — and statements made by Sattler in previous interviews. Upchurch said he and Sattler met Bostic and Stevens at Ollie's Pub & Grub in Frisco just prior to closing time.
"It was good times. We were all just having fun and chatting," Upchurch said, adding that there were no disputes at the bar.
The testimony of Scott Mikrut, a bartender at Ollie's, matched Upchurch's claims. Having known Bostic and Stevens, Mikrut confirmed the four men were talking at the bar, "about Blake being a chef and his hot sauces and working at the Incline," which is a restaurant at Copper Mountain.
In initial questioning by public defense attorney Thea Reiff, Mikrut specified that he saw no facial injuries on Upchurch, who was found with multiple lacerations on his face — some fresh and some scabbed — after the alleged fight later that morning.
Upchurch continued his testimony, saying that the four men walked back to his and Sattler's room at the Snowshoe Motel that night, after the bar closed at 2 a.m. He said that, again, the conversation was friendly until it took a turn when Upchurch explained that he needed a drink and to go to bed, so he could drive back to work the next day.
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He added that Bostic said, "I got some moonshine right here," gesturing to the jar of hot sauce he sold them earlier that night.
"I had said that wasn't moonshine, and that was his jam," Upchurch said. "I had said something derogatory that had upset him."
He claimed that Bostic then gave him "really ugly looks."
In later questioning, Upchurch said Bostic wanted him to buy more hot sauce.
"We were like, I had already bought one. I don't like hot stuff," Upchurch said.
He claims that he then sat down on the bed, asking everyone to leave. The first time brought no response, but Upchurch said that the second time, Stevens left the room. Upchurch said Bostic appeared to be leaving, too, but suddenly struck him in the face, causing the shorter, lighter Upchurch to fall to the floor. He remembers standing up again, before being punched in the face once more.
"I don't recall much after getting hit the second time," he said. "I was knocked so goofy I don't recall — just blurs till when I was sitting on the edge of the bed."
In a later cross-examination by deputy district attorney Rusty Prindle, he added "parts of the hotel room I don't even remember from my drinking."
Upchurch said that he did not remember anything until Sattler came back inside and shut the door, saying "Chuck, we don't need this (expletive)."
He added he didn't see Sattler punch anyone and didn't even remember him standing up from the bed where he was sitting.
In further questioning, Upchurch confirmed that he wore a white hat the night of the incident and later told Frisco Detective Julie Polly that blood stains on the hat were not his but belonged to someone else from when he was in another brawl two weeks prior. He added he sustained no injuries from the previous fight.
Upchurch thinks he may have been hit more than twice, based on swelling in his temple, a broken tooth and concussion symptoms.
Concussed and nonplussed
Looking at photos of his face following the incident, Upchurch claimed that two lacerations on his face, and several scrapes on his forearm, were the result of the incident. He added that his jaw and temple swelled later, though not seen in the photo. Still, he denied medical attention when police arrived, saying "I wasn't really worried about me at that point."
He noticed his tooth was broken after the fight but did not realize a piece of it was lodged in his cheek until he went to jail. He never saw a dentist.
"I just had blurred vision, and I couldn't remember simple things, like phone numbers or my zip code," he said.
The physician who saw him two days after the incident, Dr. James Oberheide, with the Summit Community Care Clinic, said Upchurch complained of bruising on the left side of his face, a headache and confusion. He noticed some bruising below Upchurch's eye and made notes on previous symptoms of nausea.
He added that he didn't recall Upchurch mentioning a broken tooth, nor seeing one during the course of the exam. Oberheide said he did a CAT scan to ensure Upchurch did not have a life-threatening brain hematoma before diagnosing him with mild-concussion syndrome and a bruise on the left side of his face.
The court presented Upchurch's two prior felony convictions, calling the witness's credibility into question. In 1991, he pleaded guilty to breaking and entering in Michigan, and in 2005, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, with a third-time offense making a felony in the state.
On the bench
That afternoon, Sattler opted not to testify before the jury. Fifth Judicial District Judge Karen Romeo also chose not to admit cardiologist Dr. Brian Stauffer as a witness for the defense, based on the fact that his testimony would not further explain Bostic's cause of death, nor could his pre-existing heart condition be used for "mens rea," or the argument that Sattler did not know that his actions would lead to Bostic's death based on the fact that he was not aware of his heart condition.
"The court finds that would be improper, using a pre-existing medical condition as a defense," Romeo said, pointing to Colorado appellate case People v Hamrick, which states that "the defendant must take his victim as he find him."
She also referenced the "eggshell skull rule," which explains that if the victim had a skull as fragile as the shell of an egg, and the defendant unexpectedly caused it to break, they would still be liable for the consequences regardless of any pre-existing medical conditions.
"To be honest, I feel that this is a red herring, that it would be confusing and misleading to the jury," Romeo concluded.
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