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story.lead_photo.caption The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen MURDER SUSPECT: Nicholas Matthew Lewondowski, right, is escorted into the Garland County Courthouse by Garland County Circuit Court Bailiff Ronnie Dunn Monday morning for his trial on three counts of capital murder from a 2017 triple shooting. - Photo by Richard Rasmussen

HOT SPRINGS -- The trial of a man charged with three counts of capital murder in the 2017 shooting deaths of a man and two women began Monday in Garland County Circuit Court.

Nicholas Matthew Lewondowski, 35, of Hot Springs has remained in custody without bail since his arrest Dec. 6, 2017. He faces life in prison on each count since prosecutors waived the death penalty Feb. 5, 2019, plus a felony firearm enhancement that could add time to his sentence.

The six-man, six-woman jury was seated shortly before 3 p.m. for what attorneys said would be a lengthy, complicated trial dealing with the deaths of Paul D. Power, 40; Dory Ann Power, 46; and Brenda Sue Lawson, 60, all of Hot Springs. Their bodies were found Dec. 5, 2017, inside a residence at 208 Nevada St.

Deputy prosecutor Kara Petro said Lewondowski visited at the Golf Links Road home of a friend, James Coble, along with Dory Power on the evening of Dec. 4, 2017.

Coble told Hot Springs police that Lewondowski was "getting agitated" and complained that people were stealing from him, and later accused Dory Power of stealing "a white lighter" and a knife from him as Coble tried to calm him down, the prosecutor said.

Early the next day, Lewondowski told Coble he was going to take Dory Power to the residence on Nevada Street to get the stuff that was stolen from him but wouldn't let Coble go with them, telling him, "You don't want to get in on this," Petro said.

Lewondowski called Coble later that morning and told him "a dude pulled a gun on him and it went bad" and "you never leave witnesses behind" and that he knew people were dead, Petro said.

Coble took Lewondowski's clothing and several other items, which were later identified as cellphones and credit cards belonging to the victims and put them in a garbage bag, Petro said.

Lewondowski also showed Coble a lighter and told him, "I told you that (expletive) took my lighter." Petro said. Coble went with Lewondowski back to the Nevada residence and noticed blood on the dashboard of the white SUV.

Once there, Coble helped Lewondowski move the cars parked there so it appeared no one was at home, Petro said. Lewondowski also mentioned going back to "screw all the doors shut" at the house.

Petro said Coble told Lewondowski he would burn the bag of clothing and other stuff but ended up hiding it in the woods, and it was later recovered by police. She said another witness, Jason Murders, who was sleeping in a shed on the property, later told police he heard gunshots that morning but didn't know where they came from.

Murders said he went up to the house to get some items he had left there and a man who told him his name was "Nick" answered the door and retrieved the items for him. Murders later identified Lewondowski in a photo lineup.

Petro said Coble went home and got his mother out of the house and later flagged down a police officer to tell him what he suspected, but the officer "didn't take him seriously." Coble called 911 later and told detectives.

Petro said officers went to the Nevada house and made entry through a back door. Officers found a body rolled up in a comforter in the dining room, and as they proceeded through the house discovered two more bodies "stacked on top of each other" in a back bedroom.

They found evidence that someone attempted to nail some of the doors shut, Petro said.

A warrant was issued for Lewondowski, and he was arrested the next morning at a residence on Little Mazarn Road.

Petro said the state Crime Laboratory determined later that all three victims had gunshot wounds in the head. Some also had other injuries, including stab wounds. Petro said all the bullets used came from the same gun.

Mark Fraiser, who represents Lewondowski along with Public Defender Tim Beckham, urged the jury to "take a lot of notes" because there "will be hundreds and hundreds of details you may find important."

He noted the warrant for Lewondowski was issued after Detective Mark Fallis listened to Coble's story but before any other witnesses were questioned or "a shred of evidence" was processed.

"They had found him guilty within two hours," Fraiser said, and then arrested him and "began to put their case together against him."

Fraiser said other than the police and the crime scene personnel, most of the witnesses who would testify are "a bunch of tweakers, junkies, drug dealers and aggravated robbers" whose credibility was suspect.

He also noted that while Coble claimed he never went in the Nevada Street house, there was evidence that boots that belonged to him had been in the house. He told the jury if it had been Lewondowski who had gone to the police, "I suspect [Coble] would be the one sitting here instead of him."

Sheri Seger testified that Lewondowski was at her home when he was arrested. She said he told her he "killed a person and then had to kill them all."

The trial resumes today.

State Desk on 04/23/2019

Print Headline: Triple-homicide trial underway in Hot Springs

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