What happened Tuesday in retrial of David Temple

By Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter, Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor, Cory McCord - Digital News Editor

HOUSTON - Testimony continued in court Tuesday in the retrial of David Temple.

Several key witnesses for the prosecution took the stand in the Temple's retrial, including the girlfriend of a neighbor who was once suspected in Belinda Temple’s murder.

Jurors heard from the girlfriend and best friend of the man who the defense has argued could have been the trigger man.

Who testified Tuesday?

Niki Biondo-Luende was Riley Joe Sanders III's girlfriend of five years. Sanders was once suspected in Belinda Temple’s slaying but was never charged in her death.

Biondo-Luende was dating Sanders at the time of Temple’s death. She told jurors Sanders called her after he learned Belinda Temple had been killed and sounded very upset on the phone.

“There was sadness in his voice. She was the one teacher who cared about him and wanted him to succeed,” Biondo-Luende said.

Cody Ray Ellis was Sanders' best friend. He skipped seventh period at Katy High School and was with Sanders smoking pot the day Belinda Temple was killed.

Ellis admitted to keeping a shotgun that Sanders had sneaked out of his house to go shooting with about a week prior to Belinda Temple’s slaying. Ellis turned it over to investigators when they questioned him.

He told the jury they interviewed him several times throughout the course of the investigation.

“They drilled me for hours. Cops threatened me with what would happen in prison if I lied,” Ellis said.

Matthew Clements is a forensic examiner with 25 years of experience. He worked on the Belinda Temple homicide investigation.

Clements testified that nothing collected at the Sanders house matched the buckshot that killed Belinda Temple that was found at the crime scene. The tests were inconclusive.

Background

Temple, a former high school football coach, is accused of murdering his first wife Belinda, in 1999. She was eight months pregnant at the time.

Temple spent nine years in prison after a jury convicted him in 2007. After a lengthy appeals process, his conviction was overturned in 2016 for prosecutorial misconduct. He was released on bond while he awaited a new trial.

Special prosecutors were appointed by a judge in 2017 to review the case and decide whether Temple would be tried again.

Temple has maintained his innocence, and his attorneys have tried to have the murder charge against him dismissed.

First week

Three people who knew Belinda Temple, including two teachers who worked with her at Katy High School, were the first set of witnesses to be called by the prosecution to testify during the first day of the retrial, July 8.

Temple’s current wife, Heather, filed for divorce on July 11, three days after Temple's retrial began.

Second week

On the first day of the second week of the retrial, the judge ruled that there would be no mistrial after a request by the defense.

The request came after KHOU-TV violated a court order by livestreaming audio of testimony and possibly confidential attorney conversations, during the first week of the retrial.

Also during the second week of the retrial, the lead detective in the case, Mark Schmidt, testified about how the crime scene seemed staged, based on his investigation. He said the Temple family purchased a 12-gauge shotgun in 1958. He also said the murder weapon used in Belinda Temple's death was a 12-gauge shotgun.

Another witness testified early in the second week that she saw a box of shotgun shells while helping the Temples move some boxes. The testimony is key to the state's case because David Temple has long denied owning a shotgun, and a weapon has never been recovered.

On July 19, the final day of the second week of the retrial, jurors heard from Heather Scott Temple, David Temple's soon-to-be ex-wife.

In the fall of 1998, Heather Scott and David Temple began an extramarital affair.

Scott was a teacher at a school where Temple coached football, and email exchanges admitted into evidence pieced together what prosecutors argued was a courtship, starting with happy hours, although the two would soon become intimate.

Temple's defense team argued Temple did not kill his wife and his affair with Scott wouldn't have been the reason to kill, anyway, because their relationship wasn't serious.

Third week

Three people testified Monday in the retrial: Dwayne Wolf, deputy chief medical examiner for the Harris County Institute for Forensic Sciences; Riley Joe Sanders Jr., father of Riley Joe Sanders III, as well as neighbors David and Belinda Temple; and Riley Joe Sanders III.

Wolf testified the gun used to shoot Belinda Temple was placed directly on the back of her head. The shot killed her instantly.

The elder Sanders’ testimony acted as a buildup to his son’s testimony.

The younger Sanders was once suspected in Belinda Temple’s death but was never charged. David Temple’s defense team has argued Sanders could have been the gunman, killing Belinda Temple in retaliation for informing Sanders’ parents of his truancy. Sanders was a student of Belinda Temple’s at Katy High School.

Sanders testified that while he didn’t know David or Belinda Temple well, his wife was friendly with Belinda. Sanders testified he once mowed the Temples' front lawn after seeing a pregnant Belinda attempt to do so.

Sanders testified on the evening Belinda Temple was killed, Jan. 11, 1999, he returned home from work to find police cars up and down his street. He entered his home to find his son asleep on the couch.

In Sanders III's testimony said Belinda Temple was his tutor in a program meant to help him keep up with coursework he found difficult. He said Belinda was good to him.

Sanders said he never felt any animosity toward Belinda Temple, even after she had informed his parents of his tendency to skip class.

He said he knew nothing of Temple’s murder, until his father came home from work, waking him up to watch the scene from outside.

What's next

Testimony will continue Wednesday at 9 a.m., although it’s unclear how many more witnesses prosecutors intend to call.

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