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Testimony continues in Theresa Supino murder trial in Waterloo

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WATERLOO | Even 32 years later, the events of March 3, 1983, move Rita Ham to tears.

"You have to understand, this is something that I just tried to forget for so long," Ham said Thursday through tears.

Ham testified today for prosecutors in Black Hawk County District Court, recalling the scene of what turned out to be a double homicide.

Steven Fisher, 20, and his girlfriend, Melisa Gregory, 17, died in a brutal attack, hit repeatedly in the head with a heavy, sharp object. Until Theresa Supino's arrest one year ago, the case, at least publicly, had not progressed.

Supino, now 54, is facing two counts of first-degree murder. Fisher was her estranged husband and, according to testimony, Supino was aware of his affair with Gregory.

Ham lived near the Copper Dollar Ranch outside Newton, and a farm hand from the horse farm, Jeff Illingworth, woke her early that day.

"He was crying hysterically," Ham testified.

"'They're dead. They're dead. You've got to come with me,'" Ham remembered Illingworth saying.

They ran to the ranch about "an acre" away, and Ham saw Fisher's body lying face down on the gravel driveway.

"His head was gone. The whole side of his head was gone," Ham testified.

She at first thought Fisher was wearing a brown shirt. He was not.

"It was blood," Ham said.

Defense attorneys have raised the idea the ranch owner, Hal Snedeker, was involved in drug trafficking. On cross-examination, attorney Jill Eimermann asked about Ham's suspicions. Ham said she was concerned because there was too much activity at the ranch.

Ham's brother, David Plumb, also lived nearby. He arrived just ahead of law enforcement officials, according to his testimony Thursday, and saw Fisher's body first.

"I assumed somebody had shot him in the head," Plumb said.

Outside the jury's presence, attorneys argued whether Linda Snedeker will be allowed to testify about a fight she witnessed between Supino and Fisher. Snedeker and her husband, Hal, owned the Copper Dollar Ranch, and Fisher was their employee.

While raking leaves in February 1982 at the Snedekers' home in Newton, Fisher was confronted by Supino. According to Linda Snedeker, Supino drove off, but Fisher was near the car and his arm got caught in the window.

"He was drug way down the road," Snedeker said. " ... I watched till he finally got free."

Snedeker said she later learned Fisher broke an arm in the confrontation.

Snedeker also produced photos of Fisher by a pile of leaves, which she testified she discovered just within recent days.

"For 32 years you've been asked and didn't know the day. ... Today you show up and you have a picture of the day?" Eimermann asked.

"Yes," Snedeker said.

Snedeker later testifed she last saw Supino after Fisher's funeral. Supino turned up -- emotionless and without sadness -- that evening at Snedeker's home.

"Nothing. It was just strange," Snedeker said.

Judge Terry Rickers ruled he would allow prosecutors to introduce the evidence about Fisher's and Supino's fight. He also allowed Supino's defense attorneys to explore their "dismay" the photos showed up three decades after the crimes.

On cross-examination, Eimermann attempted to ask Snedeker about allegations her husband, Hal, was involved in drug trafficking. Prosecutor Nicholson objected, however, and Judge Rickers ruled the question was inappropriate.

Eimermann changed course, asking if Snedeker felt her husband over the years had been "unjustly accused" of crimes.

"Yes," Snedeker said.

Judge Rickers later had to address an issue with jurors. Someone on the panel submitted questions about the case, including the date of the funeral, when Fisher's broken arm was set and why there wasn't a trial 32 years ago.

Judge Rickers advised prosecutors and defense attorneys about the jurors' questions. He also later spoke to the jury, explaining why he could not provide answers.

"I want to tell you I'm not able to respond," Rickers said.

Attorneys can present what evidence they deem appropriate. And it is the jury's obligation to listen to the evidence, Rickers added.

Witness David Wilkening later testified about seeing Supino on the night before the bodies were discovered. Wilkening was a friend of one of Supino's brothers.

Wilkening recalled Supino was upset.

"She was talking about Steve Fisher. I don't know about what, but she was mad at him," Wilkening said.

On Thursday, Lisa Vos, a jailer in Jasper County, also testified about processing Supino after her arrest in 2014. Part of the requirements is asking about an inmate's "handed-ness," whether right, left or ambidextrous, according to Vos.

Supino said she is ambidextrous, according to Vos.

An earlier witness, Jeri Daugherty-Eaton, a former criminologist with the Division of Criminal Investigation, testified some of Fisher's and Gregory's wounds were likely inflicted by a person who was left-handed or ambidextrous.

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