Steamboat Springs Michael Wesley Mottlau, who described Sgt. 1st Class Richard Lopez as his best friend, testified Wednesday about the events of Jan. 1 and 2, 2009, that led to Lopez’s death.
Mottlau and his younger brother, Timothy Mottlau, were with Lopez when the group quarreled with David and Eduardo Capote and were present for the reported assault that led to Lopez’s death.
Eduardo Capote is charged with felony second-degree assault and two counts of misdemeanor third-degree assault, and David Capote is charged with two counts of misdemeanor third-degree assault.
Taking the stand at the end of the second day of testimony, Michael Mottlau recounted how he and his companions were at the Tap House Sports Grill, where he said the Capotes heckled them for their selection of song. Mottlau said one of the brothers, described as the shorter, bald brother wearing a gray DKNY sweatshirt — a description that fits Eduardo Capote, given his appearance and previous testimony about what he was wearing that night — asked if they wanted to “step outside” after the argument escalated.
The two groups went out the back door of the bar, but, calmed by bar staff members and one of the women with the Capotes, they went back inside without fighting.
“It didn’t seem worth fighting over a Jimmy Buffett song,” Mottlau said.
Mottlau said he and his group finished their drinks in the bar and left out the front door. Walking east on Lincoln Avenue, toward their car, they met the Capote group at Seventh Street and Lincoln, Mottlau said.
Mottlau said the groups again began to argue but that after a couple of minutes, he and his group started to walk away, across the crosswalk at Seventh Street. He said Lopez was walking backward, arguing with the men, while he and his brother walked forward.
Mottlau said he noticed Lopez had stopped and looked back to see that one of the Capote brothers also had entered the crosswalk.
“I turned around, and he was head to head with the man with the DKNY sweatshirt,” Mottlau said.
He said the man punched Lopez on the chin once — an uppercut — and Lopez fell back to the ground.
Mottlau said that he ran the couple of steps back to help Lopez and that he also was hit.
Deputy District Attorney Rusty Prindle asked Mottlau to demonstrate how he protected Lopez, and Mottlau got to his hands and knees in front of the jury box and covered his head with his hands. He explained that Lopez’s head was against his chest as he tried to protect him.
Mottlau is in the Army as a data specialist at Fort Bragg, N.C., where Lopez was in the Army Special Forces. Mottlau and his mother lived in Steamboat Springs starting in 1991, and his mother still lives in town.
The cross-examination of Mottlau by defense attorneys is scheduled to start at 8:45 a.m. today.
Before Mottlau’s testimony, defense attorneys took much of the day trying to shake the two detectives who led the investigation, Steamboat Springs Police Department Detectives Nick Bosick and Dave Kleiber.
Defense lawyer George Brauchler asked the detectives about their methods and perceived discrepancies in the reports and affidavits the detectives filed during the investigation.
Bosick was the on-call detective the night of Jan. 1 and started the investigation, but on Jan. 5, when Lopez died at a Denver-area hospital, the case was assigned to Kleiber, the most senior detective in the department.
Much of the defense’s questioning has focused on why detectives did not pursue the Mottlau brothers or question them more, while traveling to Miami twice to interview people in the Capote group and collect evidence.
Kleiber said that while in Miami, he and Capt. Bob DelValle had confrontational interviews with Eduardo Capote’s wife, Desiree Capote, and David Capote’s girlfriend, Karen Rodriguez. Kleiber said that he lied during those interviews as part of an interview strategy, including exaggerating the consistency of witness statements and telling at least one of the women that there was clear video of the crime when he knew the video was low quality.
In questioning from the district attorney, Kleiber explained that the case was not focused on the Mottlaus or Lopez, whom he described as victims.
“By this point in the investigation, we no longer viewed the Mottlaus as suspects, we viewed them as victims of crimes, and we viewed Desiree Capote and Karen Rodriguez as potentially uncooperative witnesses,” he said.
Kleiber said he spoke to the Mottlaus many times during the investigation, and several e-mails between the detective and the Mottlau brothers were introduced Wednesday.