A trio of law enforcement professionals took the stand last Wednesday in an El Dorado County courtroom to offer new information in suspected killer Steven Howard Mittelman’s case.
Mittelman, 55, is charged with the first degree murder of ex-wife Valerie Rita Mittelman, 63. The victim’s body was discovered June 17, 2010, by sheriff’s deputies in the El Dorado Hills apartment she shared with the defendant and his current wife.
During preliminary testimony Wednesday, prosecutors called on two responding deputies as well as the case’s lead detective to describe the scene at the apartment when authorities arrived.
Deputy Steven Fulton testified that, on the evening of June 17, he responded to a call of a possible suicide at the Vineyards at Valley View apartment complex in El Dorado Hills. When he arrived, Fulton said he saw Mittelman standing outside of the apartment, holding a cell phone. Mittelman was handcuffed and after other deputies arrived Fulton entered the apartment.
Inside, Fulton testified he found Valerie Rita Mittelman on the living room couch. According to the deputy, her face was covered in blood, she had a semi-automatic 40-caliber Glock pistol between her feet and blood was pooled on the ground.
“It appeared she had a gunshot wound to the head,” said Fulton.
Fulton told the court he also found red shoeprints inside the apartment, which appeared to be blood.
While canvassing the area to speak to potential witnesses, Fulton said he was told by a neighbor that she heard screaming and yelling from Mittelman’s apartment earlier that night.
Fulton transported Steven Mittelman to a detective’s office at 11 p.m. that night. During the drive, he testified that he did not observe anything unusual about the defendant’s demeanor.
Simon Brown was the next deputy called to testify. Brown, a three-year veteran, preformed some crime scene investigative work at the apartment.
Brown said he found a spent shell casing near the victim’s body and authorities recovered a bullet embedded in drywall to the left of the body.
Tests showed that the bullet’s trajectory was consistent with Valerie Rita Mittelman being in the seated position when she was shot, Brown testified.
Sheriff’s Det. Mike Lensing offered the most compelling testimony of the afternoon, as he told the court he believed the victim’s body was posthumously moved.
Blood coming from the victim’s head suggested she was slumped forward when she was shot, said Lensing. But Valerie Rita Mittelman was found with her head tilted back. The detective testified he also thought the gun was placed between her feet after the blood on the ground had coagulated.
Lensing then discussed an interview he had with the defendant on June 21, several days after he was arrested.
Steven Mittelman, according to Lensing, admitted to authorities that he shot his ex-wife that evening during an argument the two had while drinking.
Lensing said Mittelman was unable to remember argument’s exact nature, but believed it might have been over their defunct marriage. During cross-examination, Lensing testified that Mittelman said he hugged the victim after she was shot.
Lensing also said he found no evidence of blood on Mittelman’s hands on June 17, nor did he find evidence that Mittelman attempted to wash his hands before law enforcement arrived at the apartment.
Mittleman, who sat next to Bob Banning, his public defender, scribbled notes on a legal pad as the authorities testified.
Ultimately, El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Douglas C. Phimister determined Mittelman should be held to answer for his accused crime.
The defendant is slated to appear in court on Dec. 3. He remains in custody without bail.