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Redwine’s former girlfriend: ‘I don't believe he did it’

Animal behaviorist questions reliability of cadaver dogs
Mark Redwine stands as the jury leaves the courtroom on Friday during his homicide trial in Durango. Redwine is charged with second-degree murder and child abuse causing the death of his son, Dylan. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Mark Redwine’s former girlfriend told jurors Monday that he was an “attentive” parent to his son Dylan in the year leading up to the 13-year-old’s disappearance.

“He loved Dylan very much,” Karen Alexander testified. “Talked about him all the time.”

Redwine and Alexander met when Redwine was working a foreman job for United Pipeline Systems in her hometown of Bakersfield, California. She visited Redwine at his Vallecito home during Labor Day weekend in 2011 along with Dylan. The three spent time going to the mall, hiking and practicing shooting guns, Alexander said.

Her testimony comes at the beginning of the fourth week of the trial in Durango, where Redwine is charged with second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in the death of Dylan. The boy was reported missing Nov. 19, 2012, and the first remains of the boy were found in June 2013 in a rugged, mountainous area northeast of Redwine’s home near Vallecito Reservoir.

Redwine has pleaded not guilty.

The relationship between Alexander and Redwine lasted about six months and the two have not been romantically involved since then, she testified. But they still texted and were in contact with each other when Dylan disappeared and when his remains were found, she said. Eventually, they stopped talking altogether, she said.

Redwine was “clearly upset” in June 2013 when Dylan’s remains were discovered, Alexander said. But he isn’t the type to show a lot of outward emotion, she told jurors.

Alexander joined Redwine on the “Dr. Phil” show in May 2013 where Elaine Hall, Dylan’s mother, accused Redwine of playing a part in Dylan’s disappearance. Alexander went on the show to advocate for Redwine’s innocence, she said.

“I don't believe he did it,” she testified.

When cooking dinner one night over Labor Day weekend in 2011, Dylan cut his finger by accident, Alexander said. Dylan was bleeding, and Redwine used a paper towel and a bandage to stop the bleeding.

Some blood dripped onto the floor in the living room, Alexander said. DNA experts previously testified about blood found in the living room, which the defense previously claimed could be the result of the normal activities of a 13-year-old boy.

During cross-examination, it was revealed Alexander did not mention the bleeding until this week. She was interviewed by the FBI in 2012 and 2013 and mentioned other details of her trip, she said.

“I didn't know it was that important, I really didn't,” Alexander said.

Earlier in the day, animal behaviorist James Ha returned to the witness stand, albeit via video link, to finish his testimony from Friday in which he argued cadaver dogs are prone to false positives.

Ha, a defense witness, faced challenges from prosecutors about his level of expertise in human remains detection dogs. 6th Judicial District Judge Jeffrey Wilson ultimately granted Ha expert witness status in zoology, animal sensing and animal behavior.

Ha, who is a research professor at the University of Washington, told jurors Monday morning that detections by cadaver dogs are “not reliable” if no additional evidence of actual remains is found. He explained even highly trained detection dogs are susceptible to error, and issues can arise because of the weather, hunger, age and level of exhaustion.

“We can’t get inside their brain; we don't know what they're thinking,” Ha said.

Because of this, Ha suspects several false positives of human remains were made by Molly, Carren Gummin’s cadaver dog, in the Redwine investigation.

Gummin and Molly traveled to Durango in August 2013 and February 2014 to assist in the investigation of Dylan’s death. Gummin worked as a police officer in Madison, Wisconsin, for nearly 30 years before retiring and founded her business Canine Search Solutions in 2005, a network of cadaver and trailing dogs that help law enforcement find missing people.

Molly alerted to several areas inside and outside Redwine’s home, his truck and his clothing. Molly also detected an odor of human remains at 12 locations near Middle Mountain Road. But remains were found in none of the exact areas, which suggests a false positive, Ha said.

Dylan’s shoe, sock and other items were found just north of the service gate that blocks Middle Mountain Road, in the general area where Molly alerted to the odor of human remains.

Dogs can give false positives as part of a desire to please their handlers, Ha said. During Molly’s search of Redwine’s home, investigators waited at the threshold of the door as Molly searched, which could have influenced her to indicate odor that wasn’t present, Ha said.

In addition, if a nail clipping, strand of hair or blood residue were found in an area, that would register as an odor of human remains to the dog, despite whether an actual cadaver or remains were present, he said.

“It’s all decomposition, and they're trained on a variety of different kinds of decomposition,” Ha testified.

Ha said physical evidence leaves chemical compounds for up to 48 hours after being removed. Molly searched Redwine’s residence, truck and clothing months after Dylan’s disappearance.

But on cross-examination by the prosecution, Ha could not cite a professional source validating that no residual odors can be detected after 48 hours of human remains being removed.

“There are no studies on residual odor, this is my educated opinion,” Ha said.

Ha did not observe Gummin’s work on the Redwine case and is not aware of Molly’s training, he testified.

Ha acknowledged Gummin and Molly were a “higher-quality team” than he realized when first submitting his opinion for the court in June 2019, and he agreed detection dogs are a useful tool in investigations.

Redwine appeared ‘normal’ morning of son’s disappearance

Richard Swayze, an equipment manager with United Pipeline Systems, said he spoke with Redwine on Nov. 19, the day his child went missing, at the company’s Durango office. Redwine looked sober and “normal” Swayze said. The two spoke for about an hour early that morning.

“He was happier than I’d ever seen him,” Swayze said.

The interaction was “strange,” Swayze testified. They had never spoken for that extended period of time and did not know each other outside of work.

Previously, Sean Borris, a project manager at United Pipeline Systems, said Redwine looked “haggard” and “out of sorts” on the same day.

Kaela Roeder is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a 2021 graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.

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