Jury finds Daniel Harden not guilty of murder in 2017 shooting death

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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - An Adams County jury Monday returned a verdict of Not Guilty on murder and weapons charges for Daniel Harden, who had been accused of murdering Jose Hansen of Hastings in September 2017.

An Adams county jury Monday found Daniel Harden not guilty of the September 2017 murder of Jose Hansen. (Source: KSNB)

The jury found Harden not guilty of first degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony. They did find him guilty on felony conspiracy to commit a robbery. That charges carries a max penalty of 50 years in prison. Harden will be sentenced for that conviction on January 21.

The verdict ends an 11-day trial in Adams County District Court, during which Harden's defense attorney, Clarence Mock of Oakland, made the jury doubt the evidence and witness testimony against Harden.

"We're happy in one sense. Somewhat disappointed in the other, but the main thrust of the case was always the murder charge, and use of a firearm, and that is now behind us," Mock said.

After closing arguments wrapped up November 1, the jury deliberated for an hour before breaking for the weekend. During their deliberations the jury had requested audio files from the trial. They also requested to review some surveillance video, as well as a map from the crime scene.

Over the course of two days the jury deliberated for about five hours before returning the not guilty verdicts on the murder and weapons charges.

The jury was comprised of nine women and three men.

"This was not a group that came to their conclusion lightly, and without some analysis, which is what we all hope for in an American jury, and certainly what I think everyone here in the Hastings community should hope for," Mock said.

As of Monday afternoon, it was not clear whether anyone will be convicted of murder in Hansen's death. During the trial, two other suspects in the case reported that they had reached plea agreements with the prosecution in exchange for their testimony against Harden.

Deante Mullen, 21, who had been charged with first degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony, said during trial that his charges had been reduced to attempted robbery and accessory to a felony in exchange for his testimony.

Katherine Creigh had been charged with accessory to a felony, but said that her charge had been changed to a misdemeanor.

A check of court records Monday listed the original felony charges against both Mullen and Creigh. There were no entries in court records indicating changes in those charges.

Local4 reached out to the state attorneys Monday, but they declined comment at this time.

During closing arguments November 1, state prosecutors reviewed the timeline of the events related to Hansen's murder. They called Police Chief Adam Story and Captain Raelee Van Winkle to the stand to make a few clarifications of their testimony.

The prosecution began their closing argument by reviewing the text message and phone calls during the night leading up to Joey Hansen's murder made by Deante Mullen. The state prosecutor also acknowledged that the testimonies of key witnesses Deante Mullen and Katherine Creigh had inconsistencies. But they also pointed out that if their testimonies had been identical, it could have been a source of skepticism. They said that they were more reliable than Harden's retelling of the events.

Harden's defense attorney Clarence Mock then spent the next two hours going over the inconsistencies he believed were in Creigh and Mullen's stories. He said he believed that Mullen went to meet up with Hansen alone and was the one who shot him. He gave a detailed story of how he believed there were two shots fired and where he believed Mullen was standing based on crime scene evidence. He reminded the jury that if they have any reasonable doubt about the evidence the state presented, that they should not give a guilty verdict.

The prosecution then had a chance to refute the defense. The prosecutor said the defense was telling the story of how they believed Mullen killed Hansen to distract from the inconsistencies in Harden's alibi and story after the night Hansen was killed.

Harden testified October 31 and recounted his arrest by Hastings police for Hansen's death.

During questioning by his attorney Clarence Mock, Harden said he was arrested in December 2017. Harden said police told him that they had enough evidence to put him away for life. Harden claimed that then Captain Adam Story and Captain Van Winkle had been aggressive in telling him that he would be going to prison for life. Going so far as to saying one of them was mocking him.

He also said he was put in solitary confinement at the Hall County Detention Center for 110 days. He says it made him feel the lowest he ever has and very depressed. The prosecution asked about him telling his mother why he said he would take a plea deal during that time.

"At rock bottom in my life, the worst I have ever been in my entire life. All I could see was to look down the barrel of never being able to step outside of prison again for something that I have never done and that affected me profoundly," Harden said.

He again protested his innocence, saying, "I did not participate in the murder or robbery of Joey Hansen."

His defense attorney, Clarence Mock, asked him, "Did you shoot Jose Hansen?" Harden replied, "I did not."

Harden said he had been at a party the night Hansen was killed, but denied any knowledge of a plot to rob the man. He claimed he had left the party before Deante Mullen had left to meet up with Hansen. He also denied tampering with the evidence at the crime scene.

Hastings police evidence indicates that Hansen was shot about 2:30 the morning of September 11, 2017.

Harden testified that he had walked home from the party and turned on his PlayStation at 2;15 that morning. He also testified that he logged on to Facebook around 3:00 AM.

Harden also denied a motive for robbing Hansen, saying that he had recently inherited $11,000 from the estate of his grandfather.

He did say that he talked to Deante Mullen later that morning, during which time Mullen told him that he had shot Hansen. Harden quoted Mullen saying, "the dumb (expletive) tried to run."

Mock also questioned Hastings Police Captain Raelee Van Winkle about interviews she had with Deante Mullen and Katherine Creigh. The questions centered on what Creigh told police about a phone and cigarettes dropped near the place where Hansen's body was found the night of the murder. It's not certain where that evidence was found in relation to Hansen's body. Van Winkle admitted on the stand that she wished she had asked Creigh more specific questions about what the defendant said to her the night of the shooting.

Creigh took the witness stand for about five hours October 30. She described what she remembered before and after the day the victim died.

Creigh went to the same party the suspects went to on September 10 into the early morning hours of September 11. She said she was smoking marijuana at the party. Creigh said she saw Harden, as well as her now ex-boyfriend Deante Mullen and Deante Hayes taking Xanax, and drinking alcohol as well. She said some were snorting cocaine.

Creigh said she heard all three of them talking about doing a robbery shortly after they arrived at the party, which was at Creigh's house in Hastings. She said she saw Mullen making calls trying to find someone to rob.

Creigh said she didn't hear Harden say much, but claims she heard him say he was "down" to do the robbery, and that he "needed money."

It was around 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. when Creigh said Mullen told her he was going to hit a "lick." She said Mullen grabbed his gun, and she saw both Mullen and Harden leave the house. Creigh said she didn't see them drive away.

She said both Mullen and Harden returned about 15 to 20 minutes later. By the time they got back, Creigh said she smoked more marijuana.

She said Mullen looked "shook." Creigh testified he put his hands up in the air, shaking, and said, "he shot him. He shot him."

When the prosecutor asked what Harden's expression was, she said "vacant."

That morning, the group went to Lincoln to visit with Mullen's mom. While there, Creigh said she there was a moment when her and Harden were alone in her car. She said she asked him if he was okay, and testified that he said, "I have no remorse."

Shortly after that, police pulled over Creigh and Mullen in Lincoln. They arrested Mullen and detained Creigh for questioning.

Creigh admitted she initially lied to the police, because she was scared for her life, and her kid's lives, if she told them the truth.

Creigh described Harden as a close friend. She said that she "considered him family," and it wasn't easy for her to testify against him.

Creigh did take a plea deal in exchange for her testimony. Creigh and Mullen went back to the scene of the crime, and tampered with evidence by retrieving Mullen's phone and cigarettes. She was charged with accessory to a felony in connection to Hansen's death, but is now looking at a misdemeanor charge. Creigh said she had to complete outpatient and inpatient therapy as part of the agreement.

The prosecution rested October 30. The defense called three witnesses.

They called Dustie and Michael Martin, who are siblings. Michael Martin lived in the same complex as Harden at the time of the murder.

Both testified they heard and saw Harden playing video games at the time of Hansen's murder. Dustie Martin said she saw him playing video games around 2:30 or 3 a.m. Michael Martin said he heard him playing video games from 10 p.m. on through the night. He said he remembered telling them to quiet down around 2:30 a.m.

NSP investigator Pedram Nabegh described how they processed the suspects' vehicle. This is the same car another suspect, Deante Mullen, testified Harden shot the victim in on Monday.

"Some of the parts if we felt like we had enough of the sample to work with, we would do a presumptive test. If it looked like blood, and under the alternate light source reacted like blood would, we would do a presumptive test to see if it was blood or not and then we would swab it," Nabegh said.

From that presumptive test, Nabegh said they found two areas that tested positive for blood. The official results from those samples haven't been stated yet.

Brandy Porter, a former forensic scientist with the Nebraska State Patrol Crime Lab, testified they found DNA from Katherine Creigh, Deante Mullen, Deonte Hayes and Jose Hansen on the samples.

There was no presence of Daniel Harden's DNA on the samples they went over in court.

Van Winkle had testified earlier in the trial. On October 29, she talked about what they submitted to the Nebraska State Patrol Crime Lab for DNA and fingerprint testing, including swabs from Jose Hansen's body; swabs from the outside and inside of both the victim, and suspects' vehicles; and bottles, cigarette butts and receipts inside the suspect's vehicle.

They also found a shell casing under the passenger seat. That wasn't sent for testing.

They also found a shell casing under the passenger seat. That wasn't sent for testing.

On October 28, Van Winkle described how they went about parts of their investigation, including how they got records of Daniel Harden's Facebook.

"You submit a preservation order to Facebook, which means you as a law enforcement agency are asking them to preserve any and all information between set days, whatever you specify. And they'll preserve that information as it is. That doesn't account for anything that was deleted prior to you asking for this preservation order," Van Winkle said.

Key witness Deonte Hayes also took the stand Tuesday. He was at the party with some of the suspects the night Jose Hansen was killed.

Hayes reportedly talked with Deonte Mullen about wanting to find someone to rob. Hayes testified he didn't remember anything from that night, because he was under the influence of Xanax, meth, cocaine and hydrocodone.

"I don't recall, it's all pretty unclear to me, so I don't really recall too much. It's just a piece of what I heard," Hayes said.

Hayes said he didn't have a reason to rob or shoot Jose Hansen. He said he didn't remember telling Deante Mullen that he needed money and wanted to rob someone.

His ex-girlfriend, Serenity Crossfield, testified as well. She was at the same party as Hayes and the other suspects. Crossfield said she heard Mullen, Hayes and Harden talking about robbing someone. She said she saw all three of them on their phone. Many other witnesses said Harden didn't have a phone. Crossfield said she may have remembered wrong.

She said later in the night, she and Hayes went to bed. Crossfield said she didn't see anyone leave the house.

Crossfield testified she heard loud voices in the early morning hours of September 11. She said she heard Mullen and Creigh talking loudly and that they "sounded scared."

Crossfield said she, Mullen, Hayes, Harden and Creigh all went to Lincoln on September 11. She said they went to Mullen's mother's house. She said at some point, Mullen, Hayes and Harden left for several hours, but she didn't know why or where they went.

The prosecution also went over the interviews between Daniel Harden and the Hastings Police Department, which were all recorded either on video or audio.

When asked about Hansen's death initially, Daniel Harden denied being at the party the same night or with Deante Mullen. He told police he had nothing to do with the victim's death.

The defense criticized police for using interviewing techniques where they lie to the suspect to get information. The defense argued it's misleading. Police said it's a way for them to get facts and give the suspects a chance to explain their side of the story.

Mullen testified that he deleted messages from his phone between himself and Jose Hansen immediately after Hansen was murdered.

During cross-examination, Harden's attorney questioned Mullen about the phone receipts and the whereabouts of Mullen's gun. They said he originally lied to the police, saying that after the murder he drove to Lincoln to get rid of the murder weapon. He told police he threw it away in a dumpster in the alley behind his friend's apartment. Later, he told police he actually sold that weapon to the same friend for $230. Police never found the gun.

The defense pointed out Mullen also originally told police he planned to meet up with Hansen for a drug trade. Later, he admitted he met up with Hansen, because he planned to rob him. Mullen admitted he called many people the night of Hansen's death looking for someone to rob.

Mullen testified Daniel Harden went with him to meet with Hansen. He said Harden told him he needed money. He said he saw Harden pull a gun on the victim, and heard the gunshot.

Harden's defense attorney said he didn't need the money, because he inherited $11,000 from his grandparents about a week before the incident. They claim Harden had no motivation to do the robbery or shoot Hansen.

The defense stated it was Mullen who set up the deal, called people before and after, and tried to get rid of evidence. They claim Harden was at home at the time of the murder.

The prosecution said Harden did tell Mullen he needed money. They said he did go on the ride with Mullen to meet the victim, and accused Harden of pulling the trigger.

"It's not the fact about being a snitch. It's the fact of giving justice to his family and coming clean," Mullen said.

The defense called Mullen a "drug user and drug abuser," and also said he has experience in armed robbery. They said drug dealers call him to "collect their debts."

After Hansen's death, records show Mullen made several phone calls between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. Mullen said he doesn't recall making most of those calls, or why he made them.

Mullen's testimony began October 25. He had originally been charged with First Degree Murder in the case. Prosecutors reduced his charges to Attempted Robbery and Accessory to a Felony in exchange for his truthful testimony against Harden. At the beginning of his testimony he said, "I told the truth on the things that I did not tell the truth on," as a condition of the plea bargain.

He then went on to tell his recounting of the night Jose Hansen was killed. He said he was with Daniel Harden, Katherine Creigh, and two others. Mullen decided to rob someone to help his friend get money to help pay for baby clothes.

Mullen then contacted Jose Hansen and they agree to meet up to exchange some cocaine for some methamphetamine and $100. Mullen said Harden had agreed to come along to the robbery so he could get a cut of the money. When they get into the car, Mullen handed Harden his AK-47 variant. He said when Hansen got into their car to give them the drugs, Mullen said Harden fired the gun.

Mullen went on to tell the court that he took the gun to Lincoln the next day to sell it to a friend who said he could get rid of it for him. Later that day Mullen would be arrested for questioning and a Lancaster County warrant.

When asked if he had any remorse for the killing of Jose Hansen Mullen said he is sorry for what he has put the Hansen family and his own family through after that night.

Van Winkle testified that Hansen and Mullen, talked by phone to set up a drug transaction. The plan was to exchange cash and a quantity of methamphetamine for a quantity of cocaine.

Van Winkle's testimony also indicated that Mullen received a text message from a friend earlier that night which said, "Do you want to hit a lick?" which law enforcement investigators interpreted to mean a set-up for a robbery.

Also, investigators had determined that Hansen's shooting death happened around 2:25 AM to 2:30 AM the morning of September 11, 2017. Under questioning from Harden's defense attorney Clarence Mock, Van Winkle confirmed that Harden had logged onto Facebook at 3:00 AM that morning from an IP address at his home. Part of Mock's strategy is to establish that Harden was not present at the time Hansen was killed.

Mock, as part of an apparent strategy to make the jury doubt the evidence in the case, asked critical questions of an investigator called to the scene the day of the murder.

Kearney police investigator Doug McCarty was working the case in Hastings as part of South Central Area Law Enforcement Services (SCALES) which is law enforcement cooperative group called in for major investigations.

McCarty took photographs and video of the crime scene the morning Hansen's body was found. During his testimony Friday morning, Mock asked critical questions about the amount and location of blood spatter around Hansen's body. The questions seemed intended to make the jury doubt the quality of the evidence that investigators gathered at the scene. At one point during McCarty's testimony Mock remarked, "Scene preservation isn't rocket science."

During opening arguments , Mock claimed that his client was at home playing video games at the time Jose Hansen was shot and killed.

Prosecutors told the jury that they would prove a sequence of events that led to Hansen's death. They told the jury that Harden, Deante Mullen and Katherine Creigh went to a party the night of the murder and were doing drugs and alcohol. A few members of the group then began to make plans to rob someone. They eventually contacted Hansen and met him at G street and South Hastings, where Hansen got into a car with them to trade drugs. The prosecution says Harden pulled a gun and when Hansen tried to get out of the car, Harden shot and killed him.

Mock told the jury that Harden was not part of the robbery plans and was not at the murder scene that night, but rather was at home playing video games and had left the group planning the robbery hours prior. The defense attorney implicated Mullen, who is also charged with murder, for Hansen's shooting death.

Mock also claimed that the stories of Katherine Creigh and Deante Mullen have changed drastically over time. He pointed out that both have plea deals to testify in the Harden case and to have lesser charges.

There was a focus on the crime scene and its preservation. Mock asked if the blood spatter at the scene was properly taken care of. They also cited gun residue from inside the car never being tested. The weapon Daniel Harden is accused of using to kill Hansen has never been recovered and has mixed stories of what happened to it.

The first witnesses called to the stand included the man who found Hansen's body, the first police officer on scene, an officer who heard gunshots at the time of the shooting, a neighbor, Hansen's girlfriend, and other officers involved.

The prosecutors are trying to call witnesses in chronological order so the jury can make an accurate assessment of where suspects were and their involvement.

The conspiracy charge carries a max penalty of 50 years in prison.