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Investigators: Michaela MacVilla murder suspect had scratches on arms

Investigators: Michaela MacVilla murder suspect had scratches on arms

Investigators: Michaela MacVilla murder suspect had scratches on arms
Michaela MacVilla (inset), St. Johnsville (background)

JOHNSTOWN - The man charged in the September disappearance and murder of Michaela MacVilla had scratches on his arms three days after she was last seen, according to allegations in recently filed court documents.

State investigators Samuel Lizzio and Craig Eggleston met with Nellis at his residence on the morning of Sept. 28 and spotted scratches, according to allegations in a court ruling. The ruling did not describe the alleged scratches further.

Nellis allegedly told investigators during that initial encounter that the scratches came from repairing his motorcycle. His attorney Brian Toal repeated that in an interview late Wednesday afternoon and said there is corroboration of that. 

But the meeting came three days after MacVilla was last seen alive - and about three days after the last phone call made by MacVilla's phone was to a number associated with Nellis, prosecutors have said in previous filings.

Nellis, 45, was indicted in November on one count of second-degree murder, accused of shooting MacVilla, 21, in the head with a handgun. She was last seen alive early on Sept. 25. 

Nellis has pleaded not guilty. His trial is set to begin June 3 in Johnstown. He faces up to 25 years to life in prison, if convicted.

MacVilla left a Stewart's Shop on West Main Street in St. Johnsville at about 12:10 a.m. on Sept. 25. She was found dead Oct. 2 in heavy brush on a property on Kringsbush Road in Oppenheim, state police said. The property's owner discovered her body.

The information about the alleged scratches seen on Nellis' arms came in a ruling from Judge Polly Hoye issued recently regarding alleged statements by Nellis to investigators.

The ruling focused on Nellis' alleged statement on the scratches as Toal withdrew other objections after a hearing.

Hoye found that the investigators will be permitted to testify about their observations of Nellis during that initial interview. The ruling did not describe the investigators' observations further.

But judge sided with Toal and ruled that the investigators won't be able to testify to Nellis' alleged explanation for the scratches, unless the defense does something that would change the ruling. Toal argued proper notice wasn't given.

Toal said Wednesday that there is corroboration of Nellis' injuries coming from the motorcycle work. The corroboration comes from neighbors and video footage, Toal said. He characterized the scratches as relatively minor.

Investigators showed up at the residence a day after they discovered MacVilla's cell phone abandoned on the side of Mill Road in the town of Oppenheim, according to a previous prosecution filing. 

In addition to the final call from the phone, at 12:15 a.m. that morning, being to the Nellis-associated phone minutes after she was last seen alive, prosecutors alleged that location data associated with the two phones also showed them "in the same vicinity at that time" until MacVilla's phone stopped moving on Mill Road.

The phone associated with Nellis then continued on to the area of his residence, the place where investigators caught up with him three days later.

Toal said prosecutors haven't said why they believe Nellis killed MacVilla. Toal contends Nellis would have had no motive to do so.

"I find it remarkable that they think he's going to kill this girl for no reason," Toal said.

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