July 24, 2024

State attempts to prove both killer, Supino ambidextrous

CDR neighbor gets emotional on stand

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WATERLOO — Jasper County prosecutors continued their attempt to provide a solid link between the killer of Steven Fisher and Melisa Gregory at the former Copper Dollar Ranch in 1983 and defendant Theresa "Terri" Supino.

Testimony Wednesday from retired DCI crime scene investigator/photographer Jeri Daughrtey-Eaton theorizes the CDR killer to be either left-handed or ambidextrous, and Thursday Jasper County Jailer Lisa Vos said under oath Supino listed herself as ambidextrous when booked in 2014.

Although the defense attempted to put holes in Daugherty-Eaton's theory, the state did present jurors with a possible similarity Supino could share with the killer.

The 54-year-old is accused in the March 3, 1983 murders of her estranged husband, 20-year-old Fisher, and his girlfriend, 17-year-old Gregory, at the CDR northwest of Newton.

Jurors heard testimony Thursday from former CDR neighbor Rita Ham. She was woken by ranch employee Jeff Illingworth in a panic the morning of March 3. Illingworth — now deceased — had just discovered the bodies of his friend, Fisher, and Gregory. Ham testified that Fisher would allow her young son to ride horses at the ranch from time to time, and she become emotional on the stand while recalling Illingworth's news of the brutal deaths.

"He was crying, and I said 'What's wrong?' And he said 'Stevie and Sissy are dead,'" Ham said.

The witness continued her testimony be describing what she saw when she ran from her house down to the murder scene on the CDR.

"I could see Steve laying on the ground. He had a pair of blue jeans on, and he was barefoot. But I thought he had on a brown..." she said while trailing off. "You know, this is something I've tried to forget for so long. I thought he had a brown shirt on. But I knew from that moment on that this was a scene I'd never be able to take off my mind ... His head was gone."

"You indicated earlier that you thought Mr. Fisher was wearing a brown shirt," First Assistant County Attorney Scott Nicholson said.

"It was blood," Ham replied.

The defendant's daughter, Casey Supino, and son, Rocky Supino, were present in the courtroom Thursday, and she laughed and conversed with her family prior to the beginning of court proceedings.

Defense attorneys hoped to discredit the integrity of the crime scene's preservation, pressing state's witness Daugherty-Eaton about a lapse in documentation when the former DCI agent admitted funeral home personnel moved objects as they removed Gregory from the trailer. The witness indicated that it was she and her partner — retired DCI criminologist Wayne Eaton's — responsibility to safeguard the crime scene.

Fisher's close friend, James Christensen, testified Thursday about an argument between the male victim, Terri and her brother Carlo Supino surrounding child visitation two weeks prior to the murders.

Outside the jury's view, prosecutors offered the court photographic evidence Thursday in an attempt to corroborate witness Linda Snedeker, wife of former CDR owner Hal Snedeker, testimony that Supino allegedly pulled Fisher down a gravel drive with a car, his hand stuck in the window the year leading to the murder. The incident left Fisher in a cast and sling.

The photograph did not depict the incident, but shows Fisher raking leaves allegedly on the day of Fisher and Supino's fight. Co-defense counsel Jill Eimermann questioned not only the authenticity of the February 1982 date of the photo, due to the unusually warm weather depicted in the image, but disputed Linda Snedeker's reasoning for not presenting the image in the 32 years prior to the trial.

Testimony between Linda Snedeker and Ham also appeared contradictory. The former CDR neighbor said she observed Fisher in a sling two weeks prior to the murders while the former ranch co-owner testified the disputed argument resulting in Fisher's arm injury happened nearly a year prior to March 1983.

The state is attempting to establish a pattern of violent behavior from Supino toward Fisher. Eimermann argued the state did not provide a specific link from the photo to the alleged incident.

During cross examination, Eimermann referenced a 2008 interview Linda Snedeker conducted with then-Chief Sheriff's Deputy John Halferty. The transcript quotes her as hearing about the violent episode between Supino and Fisher, and not an eyewitness as she testified Thursday.

Before Eimermann attempted to find discrepancies in Linda Snedeker's testimony, due to what appeared to be changing statements over the years, the former CDR co-owner recalled three phone conversations she had with Terri Supino — two the night of the murders and one after the bodies were found. In the second call at 9 p.m. March 2, the witnesses said Terri Supino appeared "frantic." But the phone call Linda Snedeker received from the defendant March 3, was "weird," she said. Supino allegedly asked how Fisher and Gregory were killed. According to Linda Snedeker, the defendant asked if they were shot or overdosed on drugs.

"The conversation just kind of ended with her turning to what sounded like her brother, and she said 'I better get an attorney because they're going to blame me,'" Linda Snedeker said.

Eimermann ended her cross examination asking the witness if she felt like her husband, Hal Snedeker, was unfairly accused of Gregory and Fisher's murders. She answered, "Yes."

Iowa 5th District Court Judge Terry Rickers addressed both parties outside of jurors' view Thursday during an atypical moment for a jury trial. Two jurors submitted written questions, unsolicited, to the judge — one asking when the doctor set Fisher's bone while the other asked why the case wasn't tried 30 years ago. The judge explained to the jury as a group that it is up to the defense and prosecution what information they present in their case, and — by procedure — he could not answer their questions.

Contact Mike Mendenhall at mmendenhall@newtondailynews.com