WATERLOO — Theresa "Terri" Supino held back tears in a Black Hawk County courtroom Wednesday, as prosecutors presented graphic crime scene images from the 1983 killings of the 54-year-old's then-estranged husband, Steven Fisher, and his girlfriend, 17-year-old Melisa Gregory, at the former Copper Dollar Ranch northwest of Newton.
Supino is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the March 3, 1983 killings. The photos showed where the victims' bodies laid at the CDR — Gregory unclothed — and in vivid detail, gave jurors a picture of the brutality of the murders.
Former Jasper County Sheriff Mike Balmer — a deputy who first responded to the scene in 1983 — testified for the state regarding the initial crime scene investigation. From the stand he analyzed a crime scene video shot by then-Sheriff Alan Wheeler in 1983. Balmer plainly told jurors "there was a lot of blood."
Balmer testified that statements from Terri Supino and her twin brother Tim Supino differed when describing clothing Fisher was wearing as they arrived at the CDR to speak with him after 11 p.m. the night of the murder. Tim Supino, Balmer said, described Fisher as shirtless the way the victim appeared following the murder, where as Terri Supino described Fisher wearing a flannel shirt when they allegedly left the ranch.
As footage and stills of the victims played on the screen, Supino turned away, staring at her table while covering her mouth. Despite the graphic imagery, jurors appeared mostly unphased by the photos. Only a single female juror was noticeably bothered by the pictures showing the victims with "chop" wounds the morning after the murders.
The state also asked Balmer about rumors surrounding the killings over the years, and the former sheriff said many, he found, originated from Terri Supino.
Defense Counsel Steve Addington questioned Balmer about the physical evidence at the scene — clothing submitted by Terri and Tim Supino were analyzed, Balmer said, and no blood was ever found.
Both Balmer and retired Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation criminologist Wayne Eaton testified that plaster casts taken of footprints and tire tracks found at the scene — to their knowledge — were never compared to a physical tire or shoe, or even linked to the crime.
Eaton arrived at the Copper Dollar Ranch at 9 a.m. March 3, 1983. Although DNA identification was not available in 1983, forensic science had advanced to the point of scientifically identifying blood through type analysis. Eaton analyzed photos his partner, former Iowa DCI crime scene investigator, Jeri Daugherty-Eaton, took at the CDR. He and Daugherty-Eaton testified that the blood spatter patterns showed Gregory was first struck in bed, then slowly made her way through the trailer's kitchen to the dining booth where she was "finished off."
Due to the blood spatter on Gregory's left leg, the proximity of the wall to her left side and the position of Fisher and Gregory's wounds, Daugherty-Eaton's opinion is that the killer was short and left-handed or ambidextrous.
"In my opinion, this was a case of overkill," Daugherty-Eaton said. "Neither one of the victims could take that many blows and still be alive. The perpetrator continued to impact both victims long after they had died."
Media analyzed footage taken in the courtroom Wednesday and observed Supino taking notes with her right hand.
Addington questioned the standard practice of the crime scene photography at the CDR, showing two photos where objects appeared to have been moved prior to evidence being collected. Wayne Eaton said he could not explain the discrepancy. The defense will conduct cross examination on Daugherty-Eaton Thursday.
Although the evidence presented Wednesday was more detailed than statements made by law enforcement in the past, the first day of testimony did not bring a definitive link between the murders and Supino. During opening arguments, First Assistant Jasper County Attorney Scott Nicholson told jurors the theme of their case is "a jigsaw puzzle" and jurors would hear what amounts to "an admission" by Supino.
Establishing Supino's motive to kill her estranged husband and Gregory will be central to the state's case. Nicholson highlighted the couple's marital problems, including Fisher's infidelity, in his talking points.
During her opening statements, co-defense counsel Jill Eimermann admitted to the volatile relationship Supino and Fisher shared. But the defense argued after 32 years of investigating "there is still not a single shred of evidence tying Terri Supino to that crime scene." Eimermann told jurors no finger prints were matched, no blood on the clothing Terri and Tim Supino submitted to investigators, and no blood on their car. The defense will try to convince jurors the 5 foot 2 inch, 90 pound Supino would not have stood a chance physically against a 5 foot 6 inch Fisher.
Eimermann also tried to cast doubt in Supino's motive to kill Fisher and Gregory.
"For 32 years, law enforcement has believed that no one had greater motive than Terri to kill Steven and Melisa, but for 32 years no one has had greater motive to find who actually killed Steve and Melisa than Terri," Eimermann said. "What must it feel like to be forever linked to the single most worst thing to happen in your community?"
Read more of Wednesday's court proceedings from Waterloo @NewtonDNews on Twitter, on Facebook, at Newton Daily News online and in Thursday's print edition.
Contact Mike Mendenhall at email@example.com