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WATERLOO — The attorneys for murder defendant Stanley Liggins began to present their case to a Black Hawk County jury Friday morning after prosecutors rested their case.

Public defenders Aaron Hawbaker and Nichole Watt declined to make an opening statement before presenting the prior testimony of two now-deceased witnesses.

Liggins, 56, is being tried a third time in the death of Jennifer Lewis, 9, of Rock Island, on Sept. 17, 1990.

The girl’s burning body was found around 9 p.m. in a field near Jefferson Elementary School in Davenport. Prosecutors say she was sexually abused and strangled before being doused in gasoline and set on fire.

Liggins, then 28, was an acquaintance of Lewis’ mother, Sheri McCormick, and stepfather Joseph “Ace” Glenn. He was identified quickly as a suspect, according to police.

He was tried and convicted twice in the girl’s death in the 1990s and sentenced to life in prison. The Iowa Supreme Court overturned the first conviction, and on Nov. 6, 2013, the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed the second conviction.

His third trial was moved from Scott County to Black Hawk County due to extensive publicity surrounding the case.

Liggins has long maintained his innocence.

On Friday, the jury heard the transcript of the testimony of Linda Stoye-Hodson, then 65, from a post-conviction hearing in 2011.

She testified she and two friends had gone to her son’s apartment on the early evening of Sept. 17, 1990, to install a ceiling fan in his kitchen for his birthday. They left from her 27th Avenue home after one of her friends arrived at her house around 6:45 p.m.

“I was going to turn east on 7th Avenue when I saw the house,” Stoye-Hodson testified. “I saw this man carrying a box out of this house, a big box like you would carry a console TV in. And then there was another man standing on the porch and a woman standing down by the driveway and she was crying tremendously.”

She said the man appeared to be putting the box into a small, red hatchback vehicle.

Stoye-Hodson said while she was at her son’s house she saw a news report about a missing girl and said the address that was given was the same house where she saw the man with the box.

She said she saw another news report later that night about a body in a box over in Davenport. Stoye-Hodson said she called the police, but didn’t give her name, and urged them to follow up on what she saw. She also said she later called then-Scott County Attorney Bill Davis to report what she had seen.

The prosecutor who cross-examined Stoye-Hodson in 2011 questioned her about earlier statements she had made in a deposition ahead of the hearing.

When asked in the deposition when it first occurred to her that she had seen something significant that night, she said “when I heard that they found the body in a box in Davenport burning.”

“If you were to learn that Jennifer Lewis was not found burning in a box at Jefferson School on Sept. 17, 1990, that makes the information that you bring today about this loading of the box on 7th Avenue that makes that information insignificant, isn’t that correct?” the prosecutor asked her in 2011.

“If there was no box, absolutely,” she replied.

Patricia Rhoads, who lived near the Glenn home, previously testified that Joseph Glenn frequently wore a black leather jacket that had silver buttons or “silver punch things” and tassels on it.

After Lewis was killed, Glenn had come to the house to try and sell the jacket to her son, Rhoads previously testified.

Another witness, Roberta Kadera, previously testified she and her husband were driving in the area of Jefferson School around 9 p.m. Sept. 17, 1990, when she saw the fire and a man running away from it.

Kadera said the man had long hair and wore white sneakers and a black leather jacket with silver studs on it.

Glenn, who had long hair at the time, testified in 1995 he had a leather jacket but said it was being held at a pawn shop prior to the day Lewis was killed.

Testimony continues Monday.

Judge Marlita Greve on Friday denied a defense motion for a judgment of acquittal after Scott County Attorney Mike Walton and Assistant Scott County Attorney Julie Walton rested their case.

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