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Murder trial: Defense attempts to poke holes in police investigation

SALISBURY — During much of Thursday afternoon’s testimony, defense attorneys tried to poke holes in the investigation of the 2016 murder of Lacynda Feimster.

Defense attorneys Karen Biernacki and Teresa Church grilled Salisbury Police Department Sgt. Travis Shulenburger about how the department conducted interviews and collected and processed evidence.

Shulenburger and multiple other detectives investigated the 2016 case, which led to the arrest of Sindy Abbitt and Daniel Albarran. The pair are charged with first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

Feimster, who was known by her family and friends as Lucy, was a mother of four and a waitress at O’Charley’s restaurant.

The defense attorneys asked the detective about who assisted with the investigation. They specifically asked about Richard Rooplal, a detective who has since resigned.

Earlier testimony revealed that Rooplal had worked off duty in security and that police officials believe he reported false hours. In one instance, he turned in hours that showed he would’ve worked at two different locations at the same time, according to testimony.

Rooplal reportedly told his superiors it was simply an error, but the internal affairs staff believed otherwise. Rooplal resigned.

Church asked Shulenburger about when he and Rooplal interviewed Albarran. According to Shulenburger, a back-up recorder stopped working at some point when Shulenburger left the room.

Church asked Shulenburger if he turned it off. He said he turned it on when he realized it was off.

“Did the batteries not work?” Church asked.

The detective said to his knowledge, they did.

Rooplal also helped other detectives interview neighbors of the crime scene and later helped with a photo lineup that showed Albarran.

According to state law, Rooplal should not have helped with that lineup because he was involved in another part of the investigation.

The attorneys asked the detective about shoes collected at Abbitt’s home. Shulenburger served a search warrant at Abbitt’s home and seized a number of tennis shoes, including a pair of red Air Jordans.

Feimster’s mother, Mary Gregory, whose daughter was killed in front of her, testified that Abbitt wore red tennis shoes and a blue shirt with a design on it.

Gregory said Abbitt put her knee in her daughter’s side and shot her in the head. The defense suggested the red tennis shoes would have had blood on them.

The attorneys asked if the shoes seized at Abbitt’s house had blood on them and if they were tested at the state crime lab. The shoes had no blood on them, Shulenburger said, and he didn’t know whether they were tested at the crime lab.

Shulenburger told the court he did not find a blue T-shirt with a design on it at Abbitt’s home.

“So they were important enough to collect, but not test?” Church asked.

“I’m not saying that,” Shulenburger said.

Shulenburger testified that Abbitt claimed she didn’t know a Hispanic man who went by the nickname L.A.

In the detective’s interview with Albarran, he discovered that Albarran’s nickname is L.A. Albarran told the detective he had a tattoo of “323,” which is the area code of East Los Angeles, where he grew up. Some people call him L.A., he told Shulenburger.

Albarran also told the detective he didn’t know where Crown Point apartments are located. That’s where Feimster lived and where she was killed.

Abbitt told Shulenburger she had not been to Crown Point apartments in some time and only knew of Feimster through Feimster’s sister.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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