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Trial over slain grandmother begins

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

Something bad happened to Kathleen Taylor.

Prosecutor Frank Harvey and defense attorney Bruce Poston agree on that much.

However, the two men differ about the involvement of David William Cosgriff.

Opening statements began in Cosgriff’s first-degree murder trial on Tuesday.

Harvey told the jury that Cosgriff is responsible for Taylor’s death.

“In December of 2003, Kathleen Taylor was found, or rather, her bones were found in the mountain out here,” Harvey said. “And the case began to be built that brought this defendant before you.”

Poston said whatever happened to Taylor didn’t involve Cosgriff.    

“You’ll hear stories about people of interest when this investigation first starts,” Poston told the jury. “This man (Cosgriff) is not the only person that police were looking at. There are other people.”

Harvey said Taylor moved to Harriman with her grandson, Christopher Zamisz, and Cosgriff in 2001.

She later disappeared.

“We couldn’t figure out where, what had happened to her,” Harvey said. “This man (Cosgriff) was the person in position to know that. Witnesses will explain that to you. The facts will explain that to you.”

While Harvey kept his opening statements brief, Poston took about 15 minutes to tell jurors why they should find doubt in the state’s case.

He questioned the state’s contention that the remains found were, indeed, those of Taylor.

“You’re not going to hear DNA evidence,” Poston said. “You’re going to hear evidence by an anthropologist that says based on studies, she believes that’s who it is.”

Poston also told jurors that the house Taylor shared with Cosgriff and Zamisz wasn’t in the best of neighborhoods.

“That house is eventually burned down after everyone is gone by someone that pleaded guilty to arson,” Poston said. “He claims the neighborhood is full of meth makers.”

Authorities realized Taylor was missing when they went to the home to perform a welfare check.

Poston said as far as his client knew, Taylor went with another couple to Florida to have an operation. He claims that was the last time Cosgriff saw her.

The state contends that’s not the only story Cosgriff told about Taylor’s whereabouts. Harvey said Cosgriff told authorities “many, many” stories.   

While Taylor was missing, Harvey said Cosgriff was withdrawing money from her bank account. Poston said Cosgriff had her permission to take money out of the account to use for home repairs.

“You won’t see checks and debits for clothing stores, jewelry stores, travel,” Poston said. “You’ll see expenses that mostly, if they’re not food, then most of them go directly into Ms. Taylor’s home.”  

Cosgriff and Zamisz eventually left the state and were arrested in Massachusetts in May 2004. Poston said the two men were not trying to escape justice.  

“You can’t prove what you don’t know,” Poston said. “At some point Mr. Cosgriff and Chris, feeling very uncomfortable in the neighborhood where there’s a lot of bad things going on and not knowing how to do more than tell the police what they told them, go back to the Massachusetts area.”  

Criminal Court Judge Eugene Eblen is presiding over the trial. He swore in the jury of seven men and five women at 11:15 a.m. Attorneys said the trial could last about a week.