Slain Valparaiso teen Noah Beller bled to death after being shot through both lungs and an upper chamber of his heart according to court testimony Monday morning by forensic pathologist John Feczko who performed the autopsy.
Heavy rain fell outside courtroom windows on the fifth day of testimony in the murder trial of 34-year-old Michigan City resident Keith Blake who has been charged with Beller’s murder and carrying a handgun without a license in the case that involved a paternity dispute. Beller was shot after 10 p.m. at the foot of his driveway in the 3700 block of Oakgrove Drive on the city’s north side.
Friends and loved ones of Beller, who died March 3, 2021 at 19, were warned of upcoming graphic content by Porter County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Buitendorp before testimony got underway and some chose to wait to enter the gallery until Feczko’s testimony was complete. Feczko explained with illustrative photographs that Beller was killed by a single bullet that entered his body just above his right nipple.
Feczko explained what slightly more redness and abrasion around the wound in the 9 o’clock position meant. “That’s telling me this gunshot came more from a right side,” he said, adding that the path of the bullet went from front to back and right to left in a slightly downward pathway.
“It went through the lung, heart, lung,” Feczko said. He said his examination told him the wound was inflicted from a distance of two feet or greater. He also said Beller was facing the shooter.
Valparaiso Police Officer and evidence technician Carol Pytynya then testified about assisting in the execution of a search warrant at 5:37 the morning after the shooting to look for weapons at Beller’s home, as well as the processing of evidence and the vehicle in which the suspect allegedly arrived and left the scene.
She said an airsoft gun was found in Noah’s bedroom, but not removed as evidence since it is not a firearm. A rifle was located leaning against a dresser in the lower-level bedroom of Noah’s parents, but also was not removed from the home.
Pytynya also processed for evidence in a secure sally port of the Valparaiso Police Department a 1996 Saturn belonging to one of the witnesses and the vehicle that allegedly transported the suspect to and from the scene. She testified that she found a large kitchen knife under the front passenger seat, as well as a large woman’s bag containing the identification of the woman claiming Beller was the father of her baby. The bag also held a plastic grocery bag containing disposable gloves and a hammer.
Pytynya testified she also assisted in the processing of the suspect’s home in the 2000 block of Goldfinch in Michigan City.
The morning ended with the testimony of Beller’s stepfather Eric Kyle who was in bed preparing to go to sleep when his 16-year-old son came to get him on the night in question. Buitendorp asked Kyle what he was thinking.
“Somebody was hurting my wife and my son and I need to get outside,” Kyle replied. He testified he didn’t hear or see anything when he first got out the front door, but quickly zeroed in on Blake as someone who didn’t belong, particularly as he was an adult among teenagers.
Kyle testified that he yelled at the strangers to get off his property and then approached Blake who pointed a gun at his upper torso when the two were 5 to 8 feet apart. Kyle said he grabbed the gun with his left hand, then his right, and told Blake to shoot him.
“I would rather something happen to me than someone else,” he said to Buitendorp who asked why he told Blake to shoot him. Kyle said Blake wrenched the gun free of his grasp, took two steps back, “squared his whole body” and took aim over Kyle’s left shoulder, striking Beller.
“Deliberately and he took aim,” said Kyle, who, like his wife, testified that he then tried to keep Blake from fleeing in the vehicle he had arrived in, but was unsuccessful.
Kyle then turned his attention to Noah, who he said was silent. Kyle applied pressure to the gunshot wound while his 16-year-old son performed CPR. “Mika and I, we saw him take his last breath while we were waiting for help,” Kyle said.
Shelley Jones is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.