A witness in the trial of William (Bull) Evans-Smith testified yesterday that on the morning Evans-Smith's wife was strangled, a fast-moving dark green van pulled in front of her car about six miles from the couple's farm.
Loudoun County sheriff's deputies have testified that Evans-Smith, 65, told them that he had noticed a dark-colored van parked on the road near his driveway when he went to get his newspaper on April 15, the day Barbara Evans-Smith, 64, was killed.
Tracey Dillon of Philomont, testifying in Loudoun County Circuit Court on the seventh day of Evans-Smith's trial on a murder charge, said she was at Rte. 690 and White Pump Crossing about 8:30 a.m. when the van pulled in front of her and slowed down.
"All the way up the road I tried to pass them," said Dillon, who testified there were two men in the van. "I would try to pass him the driver and he'd go over to the side of the road where I was trying to pass."
Dillon told defense attorney Blair D. Howard that she reported the incident with the van to police within 24 hours of hearing that Barbara Evans-Smith had been found strangled with a pair of pantyhose in her upstairs bedroom at Crooked Run Farm.
Commonwealth's Attorney William Burch maintains that Evans-Smith murdered his wife and then made it appear that she had been raped and the house burglarized.
Evans-Smith, a retired Army officer and head of a foreign studies program at American University, has pleaded not guilty.
Dillon said that she received a phone call from the defendant "within a week of the murder," although she did not say how he had learned of her encounter with the van.
"He was just asking me about the van I had seen," she said. "He just stated that it might be something that would help him," she said.
"I believe he did ask me a few questions about what the van was like."
Defense attorney Howard hammered away yesterday at the question of whether any attempt had been made to take fingerprints from any of the items.
Virginia State Police investigator Joe Ritchie has testified that several jewelry boxes were the only items sent to a forensics lab to be processed for fingerprints.
Ritchie said in earlier testimony and again yesterday that no fingerprints were taken at Crooked Run Farm after Barbara Evans-Smith's body was found.
Charles V. Gruenthal, a fingerprint consultant, testified that in most police investigations anything at a crime scene that appears out of place would be processed for fingerprints, including the victim's body.
Gruenthal, asked by Burch how much he was being paid to testify for the defense, responded, "$50 an hour. I would not prostitute myself for money in any circumstance," he added.
As Howard showed the jury some photographs, including some closeups of the victim's body, defense attorney David H. Moyes walked over and flipped over the photographs to block them from the view of the Evans-Smiths' three daughters, sitting in the front row of the courtroom.
Howard held up other photographs that showed some of the evidence, including a watch, in slightly different positions. Col. David Simpson of the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department, who took the photographs, said he could not account for the differences.
In further questions about the handling of the murder investigation, defense attorneys have brought in three persons who were at an adjoining farm the morning of the slaying. The attorneys said sheriff's deputies were not aware of their presence that day and did not question them about what they may have seen until after defense attorneys made their presence known.
Defense attorneys also attempted to back up Evans-Smith's contention that he arrived for work on the day of the slaying at 8:15 a.m. "To the best of my recollection it was between 8:10 and 8:20 that morning," said Margaret Quinn, an employe of American University's Foreign Area Studies Program, whose desk is in front of Evans-Smith's fourth floor office. Another employe had testified earlier that he was certain it was 8:30 or 8:35 a.m.
When asked by attorney Moyes whether Evans-Smith, the director of the program, was ever violent, Quinn said, "He has a temper, I have a temper; but he was never violent."
Another employe, political scientist Rinn-Sup Shinn, said he saw Evans-Smith in the men's room that morning about 8:30. "Well, how are things at the farm?" Shinn said he asked him.
"Everything's fine," Shinn said Evans-Smith replied, "but we need rain" -- a reaction that Shinn said came very naturally.