A witness offered testimony Thursday that, if true, could blow a hole in Tom Lynch's lawsuits in the Klenner-Lynch slayings - by undercutting evidence that links Frederick ``Fritz' Klenner to the murders of Lynch's mother and sister in Kentucky in 1984.
In a bizarre twist to the case, Mike McHargue, a friend of Klenner and a fellow survivalist, testified that a rifle Klenner and Susie Lynch brought in to trade at his family's gun shop the day after the Kentucky murders was outfitted with a different barrel after Klenner brought it in.Later, Kentucky police tested that rifle and concluded it was used in the murders of Delores and Janie Lynch in Prospect, Ky. Police had no information that the barrel was different from the one Klenner had.
The judge did not allow the testimony into evidence Thursday, however, because McHargue did not see the barrel being changed.
Tom Lynch is trying to prove his ex-wife Susie Lynch helped Klenner in the bloodbath that took the lives of nine members of three prominent families, including Lynch's sons, in 1984 and 1985. If he does, he says, he is entitled to the share of Susie's estate that came from the estates of her parents and grandmother, who were among those murdered.
McHargue made the statement about the rifle barrel in cross-examination by Perry Henson, lawyer for Robert Newsom III. Newsom, Susie Lynch's brother and administrator of her estate, is contesting Lynch's claims in the lawsuits.
Henson asked McHargue why the rifle's barrel was changed after Klenner traded it July 23, 1984.
``Because of a scratch in the barrel. Inside,' McHargue said. His brother Steve changed the barrel, using one from their own stock, McHargue said.
Kentucky police later retrieved the rifle Klenner had traded, compared the inside of the barrel with bullet fragments from the Lynches' house, and concluded that the rifle was used in the Lynch murders in Kentucky.
If the barrel on the rifle were changed after Klenner traded it and before police tested it, then it would undercut evidence that links Klenner to the Kentucky murders.
It could mean either that the Kentucky ballistics tests are in error, or that somehow, the barrel from the true murder weapon wound up in McHargue's gun shop - and onto Klenner's rifle.
``What they're trying to say is, the gun Fritz turned in is not the murder weapon,' said Dan Davidson, the chief investigator in the Kentucky murders. After Klenner and Susie Lynch blew themselves up fleeing from police June 3, 1985, Davidson took the evidence to a Kentucky grand jury, which found both Klenner and Susie Lynch responsible for the Lynch murders.
Judge Rick Greeson, who is presiding over the non-jury trial, did not allow McHargue's testimony into evidence, however, because McHargue did not see his brother change the barrel. Newsom has subpoenaed Steve McHargue to testify.
``I think that's the whole crux of their case,' Newsom said afterward. He plans to have an expert analyze the bullet fragments from the Lynch house.
Ironically, McHargue appeared as a witness for Lynch. After he testified about the barrel, Lynch's lawyer, Arthur Donaldson, questioned him again and charged that McHargue was a hostile witness.
Later, asked about McHargue's testimony, Donaldson said, ``His testimony about the barrel was stricken' from the record.
McHargue acknowledged that he was a close friend of Klenner and a fellow survivalist.
``I told her (Susie Lynch) that if anything ever happened to (Klenner) me and my brother would take care of her and both of her sons,' McHargue said.
In other testimony Thursday, Forsyth Sheriff's Capt. Allen Gentry recounted his interviews with Klenner and Susie Lynch in the days after the murder of her parents, Robert Newsom Jr. and Florence Newsom, and her grandmother, Hattie Carter Newsom.
When he called Susie Lynch days after the murders to ask whether he could meet her for an interview, she told him she had dinner plans.
``I thought that was a little unusual, that her mother, her father, and her grandmother had just died violently, and she had plans for dinner and would not accommodate us,' Gentry said.