NEWTON — Jurors in Dustin Jefferson’s trial for first-degree murder Friday heard briefly from his sister, Sahara Martinez, and indirectly and at length from Jefferson himself.
Prosecutors allege Jefferson, 40, helped his mother, Ginger Jefferson, kill his wife. Kerry O’Clair Jefferson, 32, was fatally stabbed in September 2013.
The trial is the state’s third attempt to convict Dustin Jefferson. His first trial in Tama County ended during jury selection because of a question about minority representation in the panel. Jefferson is a member of the Meskwaki tribe. Jurors in Jefferson’s second trial, also in Tama County, could not reach a unanimous verdict. Judge Mary Chicchelly granted a change of venue and moved the current trial to Newton in Jasper County.
Prosecutor Laura Roan on Friday called Bruce Rhoads, a deputy in Tama County. She later introduced a video of Jefferson recorded in the Tama County Jail on the night O’Clair Jefferson died.
Authorities picked Jefferson up initially because of an outstanding arrest warrant issued by the Meskwaki Nation Police Department for alleged sexual abuse. Those charges are still pending against Jefferson.
On the recording, jurors heard Jefferson yelling for information about his wife. His hands are cuffed behind his back, and he appears intoxicated.
“My wife could be f——— dead. And they lie,” Jefferson yelled at one point.
Rhoads also described responding to a 911 call Sept. 25, 2013, about a woman walking in the middle of a rural highway. The woman turned out to be Martinez, Jefferson’s sister. The location was about 15 miles outside Tama in the Chelsea area.
Rhoads testified he could smell alcohol on Martinez. He suspected she might be intoxicated but also later learned Martinez is diabetic.
While at the ambulance service garage in Tama with Martinez, Rhoads heard the page requesting paramedics respond to 104 Harmon St. Jefferson stayed at the house sometimes with his cousin, Carlos Jefferson, and Carlos Jefferson’s girlfriend, Trudi Mathes.
According to Rhoads’ testimony, Martinez also heard the page and seemed to have an emotional reaction. Rhoads said she stopped talking.
“At the time it didn’t mean anything to me,” Rhoads added.
Martinez also took the stand Friday and initially had a difficult time responding to Roan’s questions.
“Is this the first time you’ve seen your brother in a number of years?” Roan asked
“Yes,” Martinez said.
After gaining her composure, Martinez described how she and her mother, Ginger Jefferson, that day went to visit Dustin Jefferson at the home on Harmon Street. The group began drinking beer and whiskey, according to Martinez.
Ginger Jefferson and O’Clair Jefferson had an OK relationship “when they were sober,” according to Martinez. Martinez said she remembered getting in her vehicle with her brother and mother. Dustin Jefferson drove out of town, but stopped in a rural area so Martinez could urinate alongside the highway.
“They left me,” Martinez added.
Roan also called Derek Riessen, an agent with the Division of Criminal Investigation, who twice interviewed Jefferson with a colleague. Roan played recordings of those interviews.
During the first interview, Jefferson tells Riessen and another DCI agent he has no permanent address or job. He admitted talking about divorce with his wife, and also said the group started drinking on the day she died at 9:30 or 10 a.m.
He first wanted the officers to tell him about O’Clair Jefferson.
The investigators informed Jefferson his wife had died. They then pressed Jefferson for details about what happened in the home.
“No, I can’t. I wasn’t inside the house,” Jefferson said on the recording.
They asked who hurt O’Clair Jefferson.
“My mom,” Jefferson said.
“I don’t know. I just know she came out and she had bloody hands,” Jefferson added.
On cross examination by defense attorney Thomas Gaul, Riessen acknowledged Jefferson identified the folding knife as his own.
“If he was trying to blame someone else, he could have said, ‘It’s my mother’s knife,’” Gaul said.
“Sure,” Riessen testified.