Under cover of the night, p.23

Under Cover of the Night, page 23

 

Under Cover of the Night
 


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  “[ . . .] When we went down there on the twenty-sixth of December and we checked in the original check-in registration, it was under my husband’s name, Michael Stephen Wimmer [ . . . ]”

  “Did you check in the first time . . . for him?”

  “Absolutely [ . . . ] We checked in as Michael Stephen Wimmer, our address, our phone number, our credit card, of course. And Liz or Mrs. Satterfield, she asked would there be anyone else staying with us [ . . . ] And I told her that after a while my son would be coming in. So she wanted to know what his name was so she could put it on as another person because that campground has a security gate [ . . . ] So I told her Wesley Earnest. She said Wesley Wimmer, and she was typing the name [ . . . ] And I said, no Wesley Earnest. And we went back and forth like that several times, and she kept saying, ‘He’s your son.’ I said, ‘Yes.’ So, she just wasn’t understanding the different names [ . . . ] I just turned to my husband and said, ‘I hope he doesn’t mind being called Wesley Wimmer Earnest because I think that’s what she did.’”

  • • •

  After an excessive amount of legal wrangling over whether or not the defense would be allowed to introduce Jocelyn’s BlackBerry call history (ultimately denied by Judge Updike), David Wilson, who lived next door to the lake house on Clearwater Drive, testified about his observations in December 2006, when he said he saw two women come to the lake house in a large rental truck, then witnessed the women carry out beds, tables, chairs, and TVs, but said that he didn’t know how full the truck was, couldn’t see inside of it. The Commonwealth had no questions for the witness.

  • • •

  Investigator John Tetterton of the Amherst County Sheriff’s Department was the next person in the witness box. He told the jury that on the morning of December 19, 2007, he’d met with Maysa Munsey and that Jocelyn Earnest had been there with her.

  Commonwealth’s Attorney Krantz said, “Your Honor, we don’t dispute this officer’s testimony.”

  The lack of any questions from the prosecution frustrated Sanzone, who’d anticipated having the chance to ask additional questions on redirect. He asked the judge if he could pose the questions anyway, but Updike said, “There can be no redirect if there’s no cross-examination.”

  • • •

  Maysa Munsey was next on the stand. She said that she’d met Jocelyn in 1997, and answered that she did know Jennifer Kerns through Jocelyn, but hadn’t socialized with her. Maysa said that she and Marcy Shepherd worked in the same building, but in totally different departments with no crossover.

  Sanzone asked about the drive to West Virginia that Maysa took with Jocelyn.

  “We left Friday night and came back Saturday morning. There was an ice storm so we were trying to beat the storm.”

  When asked about when they’d seen each other next after that trip, Maysa replied, “It could very well have been Sunday. I saw Jocelyn all the time.”

  “After Sunday when was the next time you saw her?”

  “It could have been Monday.”

  “Did you know when you saw her next?”

  “No.”

  Sanzone asked if she had the key to the house and the code to the alarm. She said she had both and had entered the house in the past using them. She testified that she’d met with Jocelyn at customer service at 7:30 on the morning of the nineteenth and sent her texts the evening of that day but did not get a response. Then Sanzone wanted to know if she called Jocelyn at 3 A.M. that night, and she said that it was possible but she didn’t remember.

  Sanzone said, “I’m going to show you a document and . . . see if it refreshes your memory.”

  The judge stepped in and explained further. “The document will be taken away. If your memory is refreshed, you may testify from your refreshed memory. You may not, however, just say what is on the document.”

  After Maysa looked it over, she said, “I didn’t specifically remember giving her a call, but, like I said, we’re friends . . . If I couldn’t sleep, I probably called her.”

  She testified about the time she spent with Jocelyn on the morning of the nineteenth and calling Jocelyn at 3:15 that afternoon.

  Sanzone asked, “Were you frequently at Jocelyn’s house?”

  “Yes, I was.”

  “Who else was staying there at Jocelyn’s house . . . [on] . . . December nineteenth or twentieth or around that time?”

  “Nobody.”

  “Did you see condoms in the house?”

  “I did not.”

  Nor did Maysa know anything about the blood in the sink. She did say that she, her son, and her then-boyfriend had all stayed over at Jocelyn’s house over the summer, while dog-sitting for her.

  “You had no personal knowledge about the relationship between Marcy and Jocelyn, did you?”

  “No, I did not.”

  “And on the nineteenth or anytime that week, you’d not seen Wesley Earnest, had you?”

  “No.”

  Prosecutor Wes Nance started his cross-examination by asking Maysa if she’d ever seen Jocelyn with a handgun in the ten years that she knew her or if she’d ever seen one in Jocelyn’s home. She answered that she had not to both questions.

  On redirect, Sanzone asked again if she’d ever seen condoms in the house or blood or hairs in the bathroom. She responded in the negative to all three. Maysa stepped down, relieved that this had been a far less confrontational experience for her than it had been during the first trial.

  FORTY

  The most suspenseful question in any murder trial is often whether or not the defendant will take the stand. Since Wesley Earnest had testified in the first trial in which he was found guilty, there were a lot of doubts that he would run that risk again. Nonetheless, the courtroom observers got their hearts’ desire. Wesley Earnest took the oath and sat in the witness box to testify on his own behalf.

  His lawyer, Joey Sanzone, took Wesley through his life history, including his marriage to Jocelyn. When the talk turned to the time of construction of the lake house, Sanzone asked, “Would it be fair to say that you did more of the work than she did?”

  “Absolutely.”

  “But did you complain about that? Did you have any problem with that?”

  “No, in fact, I found the construction work to be almost like therapy.”

  “Did it bother you in any way that you were doing a little bit more of the work?”

  “No. In fact, after I finished the workday working as an assistant principal, I would go there and work with my hands. I loved it because it just really took any kind of stress out of the day.”

  “In the beginning, would she go there a lot with you?”

  “We started building in 2004. And I know her work schedule, at that time, was working a lot of hours. So, I don’t know how much time she was able to be up there.”

  “And just tell the jury about her work schedule back then and what was going on in that regard.”

  “She was doing an excellent job with work, but as such, she got one of those senior management levels. And with that required some eighty-hour workweeks, weekends, lots and lots more hours [ . . . ]” Between her work schedule and his work on the lake house, Wesley said, “it was rare to see each other [ . . . ]”

  He said that although he requested she spend more time at home with him, Jocelyn “couldn’t tear herself away from work. So I think my last effort was the anniversary of August 19, 2004 [ . . . ] Tried to put together some dinner and trying to welcome her home and have [ . . . ] a little social time together [ . . . ] It was somewhere close to midnight before she came home. Hadn’t gotten a phone call. Hadn’t heard anything from her.”

  “. . . And that was just one of similar instances that had been going on for a while?”

  “It had been. It just had been very disappointing all along. And we had gotten the occupancy permit for the lake h
ouse during that summer as well, but she refused to make that drive to work. So I was staying at the lake house by myself [ . . . ] Both insurance and mortgage required . . . [that we] . . . occupy the house as the primary residence. So you just can’t leave it empty.”

  “As far as the intimacy goes, had that stopped at some time before?”

  “Yes [ . . . ] Maybe early 2004.”

  “Had there been a problem with that even before that?”

  “Yes [ . . . ] The very first year of marriage, she actually told me to go sleep with other women and come home to her, which was very hard because your first year of marriage is supposed to be the honeymoon time [ . . . ] I didn’t want to do that. I just kept hanging in there with her refusing to see anybody else [ . . . ] And those requests to see other women and come home to her and just not sleep in the bed there at Pine Bluff Drive with anybody else was repeated over and over in 2002, 2003, going into 2004 period.”

  Friends and family who’d experienced Jocelyn’s emotional devastation when she learned of Wesley’s infidelity scoffed at these statements, calling them self-serving, arrogant, and outright lies.

  Wesley said they separated in the summer of 2004, “and we saw less and less of each other and just kind of [ . . . ] started diverging.”

  “Did you ultimately meet someone else?”

  “I did. I met Shameka Wright.” Wesley went on to describe meeting her at Big Lots where she had been working at the time.

  “And have y’all been happy?”

  “We’ve been very happy.”

  “Can you tell us why you chose to move to Chesapeake?”

  Wesley described the larger size of the school division and what that meant to his career, and said that he’d been looking for a fresh start. He also said that he “hadn’t talked to [Jocelyn] face-to-face in a conversation without attorneys since—the best I can recall was June of 2005.” He claimed to know nothing about her life after June 2005. “And I knew very little from the summer of 2004 to the summer of 2005,” he added. At Sanzone’s questioning, Wesley said he no longer had a key to the house on Pine Bluff, and not only did he not know the alarm code, “I didn’t even know there was an alarm system there.”

  Sanzone asked his client about the December 2006 removal of furniture from the lake house, and Wesley confirmed his mother’s earlier testimony. After that, Sanzone also had him back up his mother’s testimony about the travel trailer and the campground.

  Moving on to David Hall’s truck, Wesley contradicted Dave’s testimony, claiming that he’d returned the vehicle on Wednesday morning, December 19, 2007, before Jocelyn had died. He followed that testimony by verifying Al Ragas’s timeline, which put Wesley at the high school until after four o’clock that afternoon. When Sanzone asked where he went after his conversation with Al, Wesley said that he went home.

  “Why did you go home?” the defense attorney asked.

  “Much as the same right now, I’ve got this problem in my throat because my seasonal allergies have been acting up . . . Throat was sore, scratchy. And [I] went home to take a nap and get a little rest in.”

  To undermine the prosecution’s testimony that placed his cell phone in Chesapeake during the evening of December 19, he claimed that he did not have adequate cell coverage at his house, and missed a lot of incoming calls because of it. He added that he hadn’t gotten a signal at the Taco Bell, either. From there, Sanzone easily transitioned his line of questions to confirm the testimony of the fast food restaurant’s employee, Wayne Stewart.

  After covering Wesley’s story about going out to pick up food that evening, Sanzone asked him what he did when he returned home.

  “Just did some reading and organizing some things, packing up, getting things ready to finish my move,” he said, referring to his upcoming change to the campgrounds.

  “Did you ever leave Chesapeake that evening, that day, the morning, the next day, anything?”

  “Not at all.”

  Wesley further said that scheduling his car detailing for Thursday had taken some time.

  “But it was not because you were out of town any of those days?”

  “No.”

  Sanzone took Wesley through the events of December 20, 2007, from his activities during the last day of school before the holiday to his drive west. “So you go to Shameka’s house,” Sanzone said. “And it takes you about three and a half hours to get there at Concord. What happened when you got to her house?”

  “Well, I just unloaded the car with all the Christmas goodies and things that the teachers and kids had brought in. And I gave it to them [ . . . ]”

  “Did you hear some news?”

  “I did. Shameka’s mother informed me of what, I guess, was on the news, that Jocelyn had died.”

  “And how did you take that?”

  “It hit me hard. It was devastating. In fact, my knees buckled [ . . . ]”

  “Wesley, what did you do after that?”

  “We just talked for a little bit and tried to kind of take it all in. Then I contacted the sheriff’s department.”

  “Why did you contact them?”

  “I figured being next-of-kin, there might be something I needed to do or talk to them, see what was going on.”

  “Did you ultimately meet with them the next day?”

  “I did.”

  “And prior to going to meet with them, did you talk to a number of people [ . . . ] about what may have happened or did people talk to you?”

  “Yes. There were rumors of all kinds [ . . . ] going around. I know that Shameka worked for Campbell County and heard rumors from the Campbell County first responders and people talking about this and that, all kinds of things.”

  This testimony was the first accusation that Campbell County emergency personnel, who had not even responded to the crime scene, had been spreading stories about the event. And frankly, there is no indication that the statement was true.

  “Now when you went up and met with the sheriff, were you informed that if there was anything that you could do to further clarify what was going on with you on the nineteenth and twentieth that you should do it . . . ?”

  “Yes,” Wesley said, going on to state that it was the sight of his Taco Bell leftovers a day or so later that reminded him he’d been there on Wednesday, and said he went back to the place while it would still be fresh in the fast food employees’ minds.

  Sanzone then questioned Wesley’s second occasion of borrowing David Hall’s truck in January. Wesley testified that when he’d borrowed the vehicle in December, he had run over boards with nails hiding in tall grass by his mom’s trailer. He said he’d stopped the leak with Fix-A-Flat, then replaced the tires the next month.

  “Now with respect to Dave, when he called you to talk about the tires on the truck, he actually wanted his old tires? He liked the type he had before rather than what you put on there?” Sanzone asked.

  “He was very happy to get the new tires,” Wesley insisted. “In fact, he called me Santa Claus.”

  Next on the defense agenda was a discussion of guns. Wesley testified that he bought the Smith and Wesson .357 as a gift for Jocelyn and confirmed his father’s story that she was a better shot than he was.

  Talking about the couple’s wills, Sanzone asked, “And the portion where it talks about the three-fifty-seven being yours, is that after the portion that you would get everything if Jocelyn died first?”

  “It is after that portion,” Wesley said with a nod.

  “Was it your intention through that will to ever say that the gun was your gun?”

  “Not at all.”

  “After the writing of those wills, and before that, who did the gun belong to?”

  “It always belonged to her.”

  “Did it ever in your mind come to a point where you thought it was yours . . . ?”

 
; “No. It was a gift to her. It was going to be hers all along,” Wesley said, adding that—unlike any of the other witnesses questioned—he’d often seen Jocelyn with it.

  “When she was walking, she had it in [ . . . ] her jacket, sweater. She would have it in her right pocket or it would be in the glove compartment of the console of the Honda Accord,” he claimed, saying, “Downtown, she worked those late-night hours and it’s not the best neighborhood.”

  Sanzone geared up for his finale. “The bottom line in this whole case and this whole matter: did you kill Jocelyn Earnest?”

  “No.”

  “Did you go to that house that night as she was returning from someplace?”

  “No.”

  “Did you even know what time Jocelyn would be home or what her schedule was on the nineteenth?”

  “No.”

  Holding up the note found at the crime scene, Sanzone asked, “Did you compose this note and leave it?”

  “No.”

  “Did you, of your own knowledge, even know that Jocelyn had a new love?”

  “I had no knowledge of anything.”

  “The first time you heard of that from Marcy Shepherd was when?”

  “The preliminary trial.”

  Joey Sanzone had asked the last question of the direct examination. He could only hope that his client would hold up well under any prosecution attempt to throw him off his version of events.

  FORTY-ONE

  Before the jury returned to the courtroom after their break, Joey Sanzone raised an issue with Judge Updike. “The Commonwealth gave me a copy of a letter from my client to Shameka Wright’s brother yesterday. And I think they [ . . . ] intend to use that to cross-examine him today [ . . . ] This was something that was part of his mail from the regional jail to his friend. And there was no search warrant acquired for the acquisition of this letter.”

  “What’s the Commonwealth’s response?” the judge asked.

  “Judge, to help the court, this was a letter that the defendant wrote from the jail to a civilian,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Krantz said. “He did not write this letter to his lawyer. And in this letter, the defendant purports to script testimony during his trial, even to the point of coaching witnesses on unallowable hearsay: that it’s okay, because once the jury’s heard it, it’s too late. Now [ . . . ] we gave the defense advance notice, but we waited until the defendant testified. And, Judge, I can tell the court, he followed the exact script that’s in this letter [ . . . ] The Commonwealth’s position is: there is no expectation of privacy in the jailhouse mail. The mail was seized. When it was found that these sorts of statements were in there that could have included, Judge, the suborning of perjury, the obstruction of justice, it was turned over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney office, Your Honor.”

 
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