The first witness of the Talbot trial was perhaps the most sentimental so far, as Talbot’s former fiancée, Connie Bethel, took the stand to testify about what she saw on the night of the murder.
It was standing room only in the courtroom; several people were barred from entering for lack of space. Television crews and newspaper reporters carved out their own large section in the audience.
Tensions and emotions ran very high.
After being shown a framed photo of Talbot that elicited tears from Bethel and several family members in the audience, Bethel told the jury that she pleaded with an intoxicated Talbot to stop provoking a fight with teen-ager Derek Lodie minutes before Talbot was shot.
“Danny walked towards him,” said Bethel. “I yelled for him to walk back and this was ridiculous and there was no need to fight in the field, but he kept walking,” said Bethel, looking almost numb as she spoke.
However, it wasn’t the first plea she made to Talbot that night, she said. She noted that while the group was still at Margarita’s, there was an idea to go behind the high school and continue the party drinking on the bleachers like old times.
“It was up in the air as to where we wanted to go,” she said. “An apartment nearby was mentioned. Then the thought was put out to go to the field behind the high school and it would be like good old times, because that’s where Danny and [Officer William Soto] used to go when they were kids.
“I did not want to go,” she continued. “I didn’t understand why we had to go to a field when we had a house and we’re all grown adults, not kids. But I was overruled.”
She mentioned that all of the officers at Margarita’s were pretty intoxicated, and that one of those officers, William Soto, drove everyone to the high school under those conditions.
One shocking piece of testimony from Bethel was that it was nothing new for Talbot to act like a gangster, throwing up gang signs and talking street slang. It was something, she said, that he did all the time.
“Danny Talbot said something loud for the group,” she said. “It didn’t make any sense to me. We could hear and the gentleman walking by [Lodie] could hear. He was joking, role playing, acting like a gang-banger. I had seen him do that lots of times. He did it everywhere. In pictures, he would throw up gang signs. Working for the gang unit, he took on that role. He thought it was funny.”
Aside from those pieces of testimony, Bethel’s accounting of the events was inconsistent, though it pretty much stuck to the prosecution’s version of events.
For example, at one point she told the prosecution that she had never seen a weapon on Talbot that night. However, under cross-examination, she admitted that she told initial investigators that she witnessed a weapon on Talbot in a holster.
Secondly, she testified that she had a beer with her meal at the Border Café in Saugus before calling Talbot and leaving to meet the group at Margarita’s. However, under cross-examination, she was reminded that she had made more than one call to Talbot at the restaurant and had also ordered another beer after dinner, finishing it before leaving.
Finally, she testified that she heard one shot at the beginning of the incident, though later the defense reminded her that she had told investigators initially that she heard two shots.
Her basic testimony was that after the encounter with Lodie on the first-base bleachers, he came back about 15 minutes later and a back-and-forth argument ensued between Lodie and Talbot.
When Talbot and Soto began walking towards the parking lot where Lodie was standing, she saw three shadowy figures off in the distance.
“I saw three figures running, shadowy,” she said. “They were running towards us, in the direction of us from the high school direction, the parking lot. I saw a flash and a gunshot go off and I ran under the bleachers. It came from the direction of the high school…It was the three figures down in that direction.”
After about 10 seconds, she testified that she heard several other gunshots, though she wasn’t specific about how many there were.
She only came out from under the bleachers, she said, when things quieted down.
“I stood up and ran to Billy Soto, who was on the ground and he was holding Dan’s head,” she said. “I went over and Billy Soto instructed me to call 9-1-1.”
One thing she could not recall, though, is whether Talbot drew his weapon or not – a critical disagreement in the case.