Prosecution case continues at trial

Staff reports
Marland D. Brooks

The prosecution continued to build its case Monday against an Elmira man charged with murdering a Corning resident during a drug-related robbery last June.

Marland D. Brooks, 39, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and three other felonies for the killing of 26-year-old Clark VanEtten at VanEtten’s Park Avenue residence.

Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker called multiple witnesses to the stand Monday, including a state police investigator who testified about the scene following the killing, as well as the man, Peter Frank, who said he drove Brooks to VanEtten’s residence the morning of the killing.

Brooks has admitted he killed VanEtten but claims he did so in self-defense. The prosecution says Brooks killed VanEtten when VanEtten refused to give him money.

Brooks and his girlfriend, Samantha N. Smith, went to VanEtten’s Park Avenue residence during the early morning hours of June 18 to get money from VanEtten, a married father of two, the prosecution claims. They needed money to repay a debt -- the day prior, Smith stole money from another man and used it to buy crack cocaine, authorities said.

VanEtten had given Smith money in the past, so she contacted him and promised to deliver him cocaine in return for $200, according to Baker.

Smith arrived at VanEtten’s home with Brooks and Frank, and she went inside alone, according to authorities. She did not have any drugs to trade, and VanEtten refused to give her any money, authorities said.

After awhile, Brooks went inside, where the three shared several beers, Baker said. Sometime during the conversation, Brooks got a knife from inside VanEtten’s residence, Baker said.

Soon after, Brooks walked over to VanEtten, who was on the couch, and punched him, Baker said. VanEtten attempted to fight back, at which time Brooks stabbed him twice in the heart, Baker said.

After the stabbing, Brooks stole VanEtten’s wallet and fled, Baker said.

Defense attorney David Morabito claims VanEtten had the knife and attacked Brooks first. He said Brooks disarmed VanEtten and jabbed him once. He suggested that Smith may have also stabbed VanEtten after Brooks fled the home.

The trial will continue today.