Nellis takes the stand in defense

JOHNSTOWN — Daniel Nellis, the man who is on trial in the death of Michaela MacVilla, took the stand on Monday in Fulton County Court testifying that he was not the person who killed her.

While on stand, Nellis’ testimony went through the course of events leading up to the last time he saw MacVilla on Sept. 25, including his connection to Robert Bowe and properties that were owned by Bowe where the guns were found. Nellis also testified that he is fully disabled due to a muscle disease that he was diagnosed with when he was 13-years-old causing him to have 13 corrective surgeries. He testified that due to his disease, he is unable to run.

Nellis testified that he met Bowe in 1996 while working on a farm in Johnstown.

“We’re very good friends, he’s more of a mentor,” Nellis said.

Nellis stated that when Bowe first became sick, he would take care of him and bring him to his dialysis appointments, clean his house, take care of his dog and grocery shop for him. When Bowe moved to the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, he would then frequently visit Bowe there.

Bowe owned several properties including 174 Hoffman Road, Johnstown; 53 Dolge Ave, Dolgeville; and 758 Route 108, Oppenheim. Nellis has lived at each of those residences at one point in time with the Oppenheim address being his current residence, he testified. He also testified that Bowe had his name put on the deeds to those residences in 2017.

Nellis testified that in 2009 he lived in the upstairs apartment at 53 Dolge Ave., Dolgeville, which is now used for storage for guns and furniture, all owned by Bowe.

Bowe died last month and his Hales Mills Road farmland in Johnstown was the land in the middle of the eminent domain controversy.

Nellis said he did have keys to the upstairs apartment, but that there were padlocks on the building, which he did not have keys to. He testified that the last time he went to the upstairs apartment was in 2017 to get the deeds to the building.

He testified he did visit the downstairs apartment several times because he was renting that apartment to his niece, Carly Ryan. He went there often to do laundry, take showers and do his dishes because he did not have running water at his house.

Nellis testified that he met MacVilla during the last week of August when he saw her on Main Street in St. Johnsville crying because her sister had died.

“We talked for a bit,” Nellis said. He said he told her of his nephew who recently died in a car accident.

Nellis then saw MacVilla a few days later at Stewart’s where she worked. He testified that he gave her his cell phone number so if she needed anyone to talk to again, she could call him.

He saw her again a few days later at Stewart’s, which this time the two made plans to meet at the park near an ice cream place in St. Johnsville. From the park they rode on his motorcycle to Gloversville to have lunch at Big Mike’s.

On Sept. 24, while MacVilla was working her closing shift, her and Nellis made plans for him to pick her up at her house when she got out of work at midnight and go to his house.

Nellis testified that while on the way to his house, MacVilla felt sick, so he pulled over on Mill Road. He said MacVilla placed her cell phone on the top of his car and must have forgotten about it because when they arrived to his house, she couldn’t find it.

Once at his residence in Oppenheim, Nellis testified that he and MacVilla “made out, had sex.” He testified that she stayed the entire night.

Also while at his house, Nellis testified he called 911 because there were people riding around on ATV’s and dirtbikes in his backyard behind his barn, so he shot his rifle. “I fired a warning shot,” Nellis said.

He said when police arrived, they did not search out behind the barn where the riders allegedly broke windows to a vehicle he owned.

While bringing MacVilla home on Sept. 25 at approximately 11:30 a.m., Nellis testified he pulled over on Mill Road to “fool around.” He said while pulled over, they were caught by someone in a blue truck who parked in front of them. That person was later identified as Luke Sargeant, the father of Devin Sargeant, who was MacVilla’s boyfriend.

Nellis testified that MacVilla got upset, so she got out of his car and began to walk. He followed her for a few minutes to try to get her back into the car, but she wouldn’t, so he drove down to the end of Bell Road to wait for her, but she never made it to the end of the road, so he drove back home.

Nellis testified that he’s never been on Kringsbush Road, which is where MacVilla’s body was found.

When asked by his attorney, Brian Toal, if he killed MacVilla, he said, “No, I would never hurt her.”

By Patricia Older

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