‘He Strangled Her’ – Capital murder trial begins in Hancock
By Dwayne Bremer
Aug 20, 2013, 18:28
District Attorney Joel Smith, left, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Burrell, defense attorneys Philip Wittmann and Todd Thriffiley and Evans prepare for trial on Tuesday.
The first capital murder trial in Hancock County in 12 years began Tuesday in Hancock County Circuit Court.
Circuit Judge Lisa Dodson is presiding over the case, the state of Mississippi versus Timothy Nelson Evans.
On Monday, more than 90 potential jurors were brought in for consideration.
By Tuesday morning, the jury pool had been whittled down to eight women, four men, and two male alternates.
The jury will be sequestered at a local hotel for the duration of the trial which will be conducted in two phases.
First, the jury will decide if Evans is guilty of capital murder.
If convicted, the trial would then move into the penalty phase, where jurors would decide whether to issue the death penalty or life in prison.
Evans, 56, is accused of strangling his landlord, Wenda Holling, 70, on Jan. 2, 2010 and stealing her credit card and vehicle.
The trial began Tuesday with Assistant District Attorney Matthew Burrell laying out the blunt facts of the case.
"On Jan. 2, 2010, Timothy Evans first attempted to put a pillow on Wenda Holling's face -- when that didn't work, and as she crawled away from him, he sat on top of her and strangled her," Burrell said.
"Next, he took her money, loaded and dumped her body in Harrison County, then fled to Florida. When Evans was returned to Hancock County he confessed to killing her in commission of a robbery. He also wrote letters clarifying this and he wrote a letter to a reporter, met with her, and confessed to the murder. The autopsy report showed strangulation and the facts and evidence will prove that. You will also hear his confession and how he planned, executed and covered up this murder."
Defense attorney Todd Thriffiley said Holling's death was "an unfortunate incident, warranting manslaughter, not capital murder.
"The evidence will show Evans' history of alcohol and drug abuse. He met Ms. Holling at church. They developed a close relationship, moved in and lived together for 20 months.
"Two weeks prior to her death, some of Evans' money went missing. He confronted the victim while she was under the influence of alcohol. Mr. Evans was under influence of alcohol, painkillers and marijuana."
It was not like her:
Holling's son John Compton testified that he spoke with his mother at least three times a week and he knew something was wrong when she did not go to church on Jan. 3, 2010.
When Compton called Evans to ask if he had seen her, Evans told Compton that Holling had taken a trip to Florida to visit friends.
"My mother would not leave without letting me or someone else know," Compton testified, holding back tears. "We knew something was wrong."
Compton said he then called the sheriff's office and filed a missing person's report.
A grisly discovery:
There was no trace of Wenda Holling until a road worker in Harrison County made a grisly discovery on Jan. 26, 2010.
Former Harrison County Deputy Jason McGill testified that he was called to a location on Turan Road in reference to a dead body.
The body was lying face-down in a wooded area about 30 feet from the road.
Harrison County Investigator Kevin Hicks testified that Hancock County was notified of the body, and after an autopsy, it was determined that it was Holling.
Evidence implicates Evans:
Shortly after Holling went missing, the Hancock County Sheriff's Office subpoenaed her bank records from Whitney Bank in Diamondhead, bank Manager Kara Behling testified.
Behling said that Holling had a $1,280 deposit on Dec. 31, 2009 and there were nearly a dozen purchases and attempted ATM withdrawals from her account on Jan. 2 and Jan. 3, 2010.
He "partied" after the murder:
On the evening of Jan. 2, 2010 Evans treated his friend Joe Thomas to a steak dinner and an evening of drinking, Thomas testified.
Thomas, a friend of Evans and Holling, said the two men went to Gulfport on the morning of Jan. 2, 2010.
They parted ways around lunch time that day and--when he reunited with Evans later in the day--Evans told him "I got $800, lets go party," Thomas said.
Thomas said Evans bought him a steak dinner and drinks all evening, using a credit card at Sawd Offs Lounge in Kiln.
Behling testified that nearly $80 of purchases from Holling's bank card were spent at the bar.
Video shows a man matching Evans' description using credit card:
Barbara Hosli, the former manager of Pee Wee's gas station in Harrison County, testified that she was asked to pull video of a man using Holling's bank card on Jan.3, 2010.
Prosecutors then showed video from the store, which depicted a man fitting Evans' description buying a six-pack of beer and other items in the store. One of the purchases was made with Holling's bank card, prosecutors said.
More evidence to come:
Seven witnesses were called to testify on Tuesday.
The state is expected to call 14 total witnesses. It is unclear how many witnesses the defense plans to call or if Evans will take the stand in his own defense.
Testimony will begin again Wednesday at 9 a.m.