Episode 5: Unconventional Murder Weapons
In Episode 5, Brittany and Tyler explore killers who yielded some unconventional murder weapons: James Paul Harris and Ana Trujillo.
Wine Pick: Parragon Wine from Napa Valley
We chose a 2016 limited reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Smooth and very fruit forward
Lots of wines with a similar name but this one is Parragon with 2 R’s
Very tall and slender bottle
No website that we could find for the vineyard
Brittany's James Paul Harris Notes:
James Gerety was killed between March and April 2011 by James Paul Harris, who was 29.
Gerety, who was 49 at the time, was planning to move into the Harris home. However, instead of moving in, Harris’ former girlfriend testified that Harris took Gerety into his home in Carbondale, Kansas, which is 18 miles from Topeka and shot him in the stomach but kept him alive.
For two days, Harris tortured Gerety before eventually using a guitar string to strangle him to death. Using that same guitar string, Harris decapitated Gerety. Harris disposed of the torso, arms and legs by putting them in a barrel and buried it on his father’s property. The head, he stuffed into a canvas bag and would talk to it during his voodoo rituals as a part of worship. Eventually, Harris disposed of the head, possibly also burying it on his father’s property.
In 2012, Harris’s father’s girlfriend, Shirley Johnson, found a portion skull on her property while she was outside gathering mushrooms. She immediately reported it to her husband, who reported the find to authorities.
With the discovery of the skull piece, in 2013 this case went from being a missing persons case into a homicide investigation.
Charge & Preliminary Hearing
At the time he was charged with the murder of James Gerety, Harris was being held in federal prison in Texas on an unrelated crime and was brought to Kansas when his sentence in Texas was up. Harris pleaded innocent to premeditated first degree murder, and was held in Osage County prison while he awaited trial.
Bobbie Williams, who was 29 and Harris’ former girlfriend, testified during Harris’ preliminary hearing in Osage County District Court in March 2014 that Harris kept the victim’s head in a bag and “he talked to it”, and kept a voodoo doll with a photo of the victim taped to it in a bedroom of a residence they shared in Topeka.
Harris was charged with one count of first degree murder for the killing of 49-year-old James E. Gerety. Prosecutors allege that Harris killed Gerety sometime between March 3, 2011, and April 20, 2011. Johnson testified about finding the skull, saying she saw it lying on the ground and thought it was a soccer ball. She said she put the object in a bag and took it to her house, where she lives with James Harris’ father, Jeff Harris. Johnson said she showed it to Jeff who called 911 to report it. Johnson said law enforcement officers arrived and searched the property for 10 hours. Other testimony during the trial indicated James Harris had previously lived at the rural Carbondale residence where the skull was found. Harris was booked into the Osage County Jail on March 3 after being transferred from a federal correctional institution at Texarkana, Texas. Another witness, Julie Wyant, testified that Harris had told her he had killed someone. Wyant said she had known Harris about 10 years and that he had gone to school with her son. “He said he murdered somebody and put his body on my property and the head somewhere else,” Wyant said. With Spradling asking for more details about Wyant’s conversation with Harris, Wyant said she had asked if Harris thought he would be “found out.” “He said the person had no teeth and fingerprints had been taken off of his fingers,” Wyant said. Topeka Police Detective Brian Hill testified that during the investigation of Gerety’s disappearance, he had questioned Bobbie Williams about her involvement with the defendant. Hill said Williams also told him that Harris had killed Gerety in an upstairs room in a house on Tyler Street in Topeka, then later disposed of the body by putting it into a barrel and using a substance “to break it down.” The detective said Williams later pointed out a spot in Osage County where Harris told her Gerety had been buried, which Hill described as a campsite “by [Harris’] father’s house.” Gerety’s body has not been found.
When they further asked Williams to explain the manner of death, Williams said, “OK, if you really want to know.” At that point in the hearing, they asked for an attorneys’ conference with Osage County Magistrate Judge Taylor Wine, who agreed to an immediate competency hearing for Williams. They then questioned Williams about drug use and if she had taken any type of substance that could impair her memory. Williams denied using methamphetamine or marijuana, but said she was taking medication for depression. She was deemed competent. They again questioned Williams about the manner of Gerety’s death, and she said Harris had “shot him in the stomach… put him in a barrel... and buried it." Williams said she had never met Gerety and only knew him by the name that Harris called the “voodoo doll hanging from the ceiling.” She said Harris called the doll “Bob on the hill”, “poor Jimbo” and “poor Jimbo Bolinsky”. Williams testified that on one occasion Harris had told her he had moved the body. She said he returned home “dirty and sweaty.” She said he kept a bag of items including a guitar string, machete and a shotgun. Throughout her testimony, she repeated said she didn’t know the answers or why she was being asked certain questions. The judge then reminded her she was required to answer.
“It’s not really important, because it’s after the fact,” Williams said when asked how long she knew Harris and when she had met him. When Williams said “they refer to the doll as Bob on the hill,” Campbell asked who “they” were. Williams was getting aggregated and said, “Friends. Anyone around there knew it was Bob on the hill.” She denied that she knew the names of any of the other people at the home, but identified one as a cousin of Harris. When the defense again asked about the time frame of Williams’ relationship with Harris, she said the last time she saw Harris was “a couple days before he got arrested,” and that Harris had come to her home in Topeka to kill James Cox, whom she identified as her husband.
She said had she lived with Harris until “he sent me to his cousin’s.” Campbell asked her if she was still unhappy with that decision, and she agreed she was not. When Campbell questioned Williams on her testimony about seeing the victim’s head, she denied seeing it. When asked if she had talked to detective Hill about the head, she said she hadn’t. Williams refused to answer more questions and Wine threatened to jail her for contempt. Campbell asked about time she spent with Harris at the rural Carbondale residence and Williams said, “We’d go there to shoot things, just out in the backyard.” The court later heard testimony from two forensics scientists who told how Gerety’s identity was confirmed with DNA testing of the skull. No more witnesses were called after Campbell announced the defense would stipulate that deputies had retrieved a portion of a skull, the skull had been identified as Gerety’s, and that a person would die with that part of the skull removed. Jones agreed to the stipulations, adding a stipulation that James Gerety is deceased, and then said the prosecution had completed its case. Campbell called no witnesses for the defense. Wine made an immediate ruling, saying the state had met its obligation to show probable cause to believe that Harris had committed the crime. The judge then ordered Harris to be bound over for arraignment before Osage County Chief Judge Phillip M. Fromme at 3 p.m. on March 31, 2014.
Trial & Conviction
During the trial, Harris originally was charged with premeditated first-degree murder in Gerety’s slaying. District Court Judge Phillip Fromme sentenced Harris based on a plea agreement reached by prosecutors and Harris’ defense attorney. James Paul Harris pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter in the death of James Gerety, 49.
The prosecutor’s office accepted the plea to the less serious homicide charge of involuntary manslaughter because prosecuting James Gerety’s slaying as a premeditated first-degree murder faced challenges, Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones said. Other than a portion of the victim’s skull, prosecutors didn’t have the victim’s body, the murder weapon hadn’t been recovered, not all the prosecution witnesses were available, and prosecutors faced “credibility issues” with a major witness, Jones said. “It was going to be a tough case to prosecute,” Jones said.
In April, 2015, Harris was sentenced to four years and two months in prison. Harris was released from prison in May 2017.
In December, 2017, Two people, including Harris, were in custody at a Shawnee County Jail in connection with weapons and drug crimes after a traffic stop. During the traffic investigation, officers located an illegally altered shotgun, methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and checks not belonging to the occupants of the vehicle. A potentially explosive device also was located during the stop, and the department’s bomb squad later determined it was a homemade firework.
Tyler's Ana Trujillo Notes:
Having previously lived the high life as an executive for Coca Cola, Ana moved to downtown Houston following the break-up of her second marriage in 2009. Then 45, she met 59-year-old Stefan Anderson a university professor. The pair’s relationship progressed quickly with her moving into his apartment within weeks. Ana said: “He was very intelligent, very charming and he completely fell in love with me.
I always had a lot of shoes and Stefan had a shoe fetish, he liked me wearing heels, that was his thing.”
Murder It was in 2013 that the couple had a huge fight which started in the back of a taxi. The argument continued when the couple went up to the apartment and Ana claims that Stefan became angry when he saw that Ana had packed her suitcases to go and see her family the next day. She said: “He became furious, he changed and he really wasn’t himself anymore.
At that point he started to slam me against the wall, he took my hands and was beating them against the wall.” At this point Ana claims that she fell back and grabbed a hold of his hair in the scuffle. She explained: “We were rolling around and he was on top of me, and I couldn’t breathe and he was suffocating me. “He wouldn’t let me go and I was just saying please let me go. “And I reached over and I found the shoe and he was on top of me and I was just hitting him with the shoe and I was saying ‘please get off of me’ and I was just crying. He was just laughing it didn’t even seem like it was fazing him.” She called the police and in her 911 call Ana said: “He assaulted me, I hit him with my shoe and now he’s bleeding.” When the police responded to the call they described the scene as like walking into a “slaughterhouse”. Ana was arrested for murder as it was discovered that she had actually hit him 25 times in the head with the stiletto with her $1,500 5.5inch high heel shoes that Anderson had previously bought for her.
Ana denied murder maintaining that she had been physically mentally and emotionally abused and that she finally had to kill him in self-defence.
Prosecutors argued that Trujillo didn’t kill Andersson in a moment of sudden passion, but that his slaying was a vicious murder in which she pinned him down and repeatedly stabbed him with her shoe while he never fought back. Trujillo took the witness stand, telling jurors that she was forced to kill Andersson to save her own life during a more than hourlong fight after being chased down, knocked into a wall and thrown over a couch. During about seven hours of rambling testimony, she testified that she had no idea she had hurt Andersson so badly until she reached for him and realized her hands were full of blood. The defense maintained that Trujillo killed Andersson in “pure self-defense” and that “she did what she had to.” “The fact she took a stiletto to his face 25 times and then paraded around town like she’s the victim, that’s insulting,” prosecutor Sarah Mickelson said during closing arguments.
Witnesses presented by prosecutors in the punishment phase detailed Trujillo’s criminal history or firsthand experiences in which she became violent toward them when she drank. Trujillo was arrested twice for drunk driving. She had been drinking the night of Andersson’s death but her blood alcohol level was not tested, according to testimony. During the trial, prosecutors highlighted that Trujillo, a native of Mexico, did not have any injuries from her confrontation with Andersson while the researcher had defensive wounds on his hands and wrists. Trujillo’s attorneys argued she had been injured. Witnesses, including family and friends, said Andersson, a native of Sweden who became a U.S. citizen, had a drinking problem, but they described him as mild-mannered, quiet and never violent.
During their deliberations, jurors asked to look at several pieces of evidence, including the blue suede stiletto heel — a size 9 platform pump. They reached agreement on a sentence after 4 1/2 hours of deliberations, and also found that the crime was not done in the heat of sudden passion.
Ana Trujillo was sentenced to life in prison.