BILLINGS — Yellowstone County prosecutors presented evidence Tuesday that clothes worn by accused killer Diego Hernandez were bleached less than 24 hours after he was last seen with the victim, Lori Bray, in October 2019.
Yellowstone County Sheriff's deputy Christopher Etter testified that Hernandez gave permission for him to take the clothes as evidence, along with pictures of his room and his phone with the code to unlock it.
Under questioning by Deputy Ed Prosecutor Ed Zink, Etter said Hernandez’s pants were stained with bleach. “This to me looks like they have been bleached, the discoloration that was present when I took photographs are still there,” said Etter while holding up Hernandez’s pants protected by an evidence bag.
Defense attorney Joel Thompson then countered that Hernandez' typical routine was to wash his white clothes with bleach.
Etter and patrol officer Brett Hilde of the Billings Police Department were two of the witnesses to testify on the second day of the trial to determine whether Hernandez is guilty of one charge of deliberately killing Bray, 57, after she left her shift working at the Cedar Ridge Casino in Laurel. Her body was found in a ditch east of Laurel.
Etter said that at the start of the investigation into Bray’s murder, he and another officer went to Hernandez’s home on October 1, the night he was seen on surveillance video with Bray.
Etter said that Hernandez did not have on a shirt and that he noticed scratches on Hernandez’s body, including his face, neck, arms, and hands. He said that the scratches appeared to be fresh.
“I told him pretty straight forward that it looked like someone had been trying to get away from him. He had obviously visible wounds on him,” said Etter.
At the time of the investigation, Hernandez had said that he had been wearing makeup to cover the wounds while he was at Planet Lockwood, according to Etter. Etter said that he did not believe Hernandez.
Prosecutors on the trial brought Hernandez' clothes from the night of the alleged murder to the attention of the jury, including his pants and a hoodie.
The shoes Hernandez was wearing on October 1 were also presented to the jury. Etter said that when he took the shoes as evidence, they were wet.
The trial will resume on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.