Mother of homicide defendant charged with perjury, tampering

2014-08-25T17:50:00Z 2014-08-26T15:22:05Z Mother of homicide defendant charged with perjury, tamperingBy EDDIE GREGG egregg@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Prosecutors have charged a 66-year-old woman — the mother of a man recently charged with shooting his neighbor to death in March 2013 — with lying to investigators and hiding a bullet in her shoe while her home was being searched by detectives.

Darlene Johnson Durand appeared in Yellowstone County District Court Monday and pleaded not guilty to felony counts of perjury and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

Durand’s son, 43-year-old Patrick O. Niess, has pleaded not guilty in the March 8, 2013, shooting death of Frank “Trey” Greene III.

Because Durand appeared on the charges as ordered, District Judge G. Todd Baugh allowed her to remain free from jail without bond on several conditions, including that she have no contact with Neiss or his 8-year-old son, who is a witness in the case.

Neiss, a man with federal convictions for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possession of an unregistered machine gun, lived with his mother next door to Greene at the time of the homicide.

Because of Neiss’ convictions, he is not allowed to possess a firearm.

Charging documents say investigators served a search warrant at the property, 7200 Central Ave., on March 14, 2013, while Durand, Neiss and Neiss’ son were home.

While searching the house, detectives saw a live .22-caliber round sitting on top of a pellet stove in the living room of the house. A detective later saw that the round had disappeared.

Charging documents say the .22-caliber bullet was found in Durand’s shoe.

During the search of the home, detectives also found .223-caliber, 9mm and 12-gauge ammunition, as well as .40-caliber shell casings.

“The .40-caliber shell casings were significant in the investigation because .40-caliber casings found on the defendant’s property and .40-caliber shell casings found at the crime scene at Greene’s home were fired through the same weapon,” charging documents say.

Investigators have also been able to determine that Greene was gunned down with a .40-caliber firearm, according to prosecutors.

Despite the apparent shooting that had been occurring at Durand’s property, no firearms were ever found there, court records say. No murder weapon has been found either.

Durand stated to investigators under oath in January that she heard gunshots all the time at her property but that she had not seen anyone shooting there, court records say. She also stated that she had not seen any brass shell casings since her son got out of federal prison in 2008.

At the end of the interview with investigators, she “changed her story,” according to charging documents, stating that she was “not surprised” to find 9mm and 12-gauge rounds at her property.

She denied having any guns on the property while her son was there and claimed that she took them to a friend’s home in October 2007. Through interviewing other witnesses, investigators determined this wasn’t true, court records say.

In February, detectives also interviewed Amy Glen, Neiss’ ex-girlfriend, who testified that she had seen at least four people shooting guns on Durand’s property and that Durand had a 9mm handgun.

Another witness told investigators that he had fired guns at Durand’s property after Neiss was released from federal prison and as recently as a “couple weeks” before Greene’s murder.

Less than two weeks ago, court records say, investigators also interviewed Neiss’ 8-year-son, who said that he had fired guns at the property with his father.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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