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Riveting accounts by Glazier witnesses

Aneighbor of William Frank Simmons testified at his murder trial Friday that she thinks she saw Kaelin Glazier's boyfriend walking on Haven Road on the night the Ruch teen went missing.

Diane Smandra said she will never forget the eyes of the person she later was told was Clifford Ruhland. The two locked eyes as her headlights illuminated the "scruffy" male between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m. that overcast night on Nov. 6, 1996, she said.

"The thing that really moved me the most was the fear that was in his eyes," Smandra said. "I was afraid of this guy. I'm not ever going to forget those eyes."

Simmons, now 31, who was friends with both Kaelin and Ruhland, was the last known person to see Kaelin alive, when the two watched a video together in his camp trailer on Haven Road.

But no trace of the 15-year-old was found until her remains were discovered in 2008 on property across from Simmons' home.

Smandra was driving home from her job in Grants Pass when she saw the white male who stood about 5 feet 9 inches tall, had brown "scraggly" hair, and was wearing a bandana. He was walking along Haven Road just past the defendant's property and headed toward Highway 238. But the stranger stopped walking as she drove past, Smandra said.

"I normally am not afraid of people," she said. "But this guy's eyes, there was something wrong and it scared me."

Smandra said the person she saw was not Simmons. She sped up to get home as quickly as possible, then called her husband.

"Get home now," she recalled telling him.

A few days later she heard Kaelin was missing. Smandra told police there was no one else on the road that night "but this guy."

She helped police create a sketch of the male, whom she believes she saw one more time at a neighbor's house.

"He was out in the yard," Smandra said. "He turned around and walked away."

Laurel Prchal, who also lived on Haven Road, testified Smandra saw Ruhland sometime after Kaelin's disappearance while he was at Prchal's home. Ruhland was friends with Prchal's then 15-year-old daughter.

Ruhland testified Wednesday he frequently snuck out of his home at night, often to go to Simmons' place. Kaelin had asked him to meet her at Simmons' trailer on Nov. 6. But he did not make it there, he said.

Ruhland's father said he saw his son and Kaelin together late that afternoon at Ruch Elementary School, but Ruhland denied this on the stand.

Ruhland said he skipped school the next morning and went to see Simmons.

Friday afternoon Simmons' neighbor, Tom Zanitsch, testified he was mowing his grassy field on April 8, 2008, when he accidently unearthed Kaelin's skeletal remains.

Zanitsch was prepping the unused field in anticipation for the removal of an old pine tree, he said.

"I hit something and a bone came out of the ground," Zanitsch said, adding he didn't initially stop mowing, but went back to the area about five minutes later to investigate further.

"I saw that it was a skull," he said. "And a little piece of a tennis shoe was sticking up (out of the ground)."

Zanitsch said he ran up to his house and got his wife. The couple went back to the field, Judy Zanitsch said.

"I said, 'We need to make a phone call,'" she said, adding they called police immediately and did not touch the remains.

Judy Zanitsch said Kaelin's remains were "in the ground" and that there was a "hole" where the "skull popped out."

Police arrived within an hour of their call, Tom Zanitsch said.

Tom Zanitsch had searched his barn and other areas closer to their home when they learned Kaelin was missing in 1996. But no one had ever asked to search their property until Kaelin's remains were found, they said.

The Zanitschs testified they didn't regularly mow or maintain that field because of its proximity to Simmons' family. The couple said they tried to avoid contact with their neighbors because of ongoing disputes about animals. More than 20 of Simmons' family's dogs were allowed to run loose in the neighborhood, and its horses, donkeys and mules also frequently ended up on the Zanitsch property, Judy Zanitsch said.

The final witness of the week was retired Oregon State Police criminalist Steve Strauss. Called to investigate Simmons' trailer in December 1996, Strauss took photos of the interior and exterior of the disheveled and filthy trailer. Strauss was looking for signs of blood or an altercation. He found plenty of blood on the walls and on the blankets. Further testing determined the blood was non-human, he said.

Judge Benjamin Bloom told jurors both the defense and the prosecution have stipulated that the remains found in the Zanitsch field belonged to Kaelin. They further acknowledged that duct tape and a small bottle of lotion found near her remains were analyzed for fingerprints but none were found.

The trial is moving ahead of schedule, and will not resume until Tuesday morning in order to accommodate the schedule of prosecution witnesses, Bloom said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.