CRESCENT CITY -- Witnesses in Del Norte County Superior Court on Wednesday laid out a chaotic series of events surrounding a March killing in Klamath, weaving a twisted picture of a drug-filled night that led to the alleged torture and slaying of a 21-year-old Crescent City man.
The accounts of the night are clouded by statements made by the four people in the house at the time of the incident or leading up to it, all of whom are believed to have taken psychedelic mushrooms. The victim and the suspect, according to the testimony, became preoccupied with the idea that a tidal wave was coming, that the end of the world was upon them and that a struggle between God and the devil was taking place.
Del Norte County Superior Court Judge William Follett ruled after hours of testimony that there was sufficient evidence to hold Jarrod Wyatt, 26, in the alleged murder of his friend Taylor Powell. Wyatt will also have to answer to charges of aggravated mayhem and torture.
The prosecution called two Del Norte County Sheriff's deputies to testify about what they found at the Requa house in which the killing took place in the early morning hours of March 21. The prosecution also called a detective who interviewed Wyatt after his arrest. The defense, in a move to dilute the charges against Wyatt, called his ex-girlfriend, who was at the residence that night and witnessed some of the events before Powell's death.
Under questioning by Del Norte County District
Lee testified that he saw a man, later identified as Wyatt, standing near a body on a couch, naked and covered from head to toe in what appeared to be dried blood. Wyatt said,
”I killed him,” Lee said.
Lee was able to cuff Wyatt without incident, and then he proceeded to look at the body on the couch. The body had had the majority of its face removed, and an 18-inch incision in its chest cavity. Lee said that he did not attempt first aid because he could see the man was dead.
”At one point,” Lee said, “(Wyatt) asked if we were God, or if we were God coming to save him.”
Lee said that Wyatt said he'd cut out Powell's tongue, and that he'd removed his heart. He also mentioned that there had been a “big fight” in the kitchen. Wyatt told him that when he'd looked at Powell's face he'd seen the devil, Lee said.
Deputy Enrique Ortega, there with Lee, said that he took Wyatt to his cruiser and put him inside.
”He (Wyatt) said, 'Take me to the hospital, Enrique, I'm covered in the guy's blood,'” Ortega said.
Ortega also testified that he cuffed Wyatt's ex-girlfriend Billy Jo Bailey, who was found in the bedroom of the house. Davis was also detained. Testimony later revealed that Davis had been at the house earlier, then left to go to Crescent City, after Wyatt tried to get him to stay and even jumped on his car as Davis left. Davis returned later to get his dog, according to testimony Wednesday, when he discovered someone straddling another person in the living room talking about cutting off a tattoo. That's when he reportedly went to call police.
Detective Ed Fleshman testified that he interviewed Wyatt in a holding cell at the Del Norte County jail at around 6:30 a.m. on March 21. Wyatt was still naked and covered in blood, Fleshman said. Fleshman testified that he read Wyatt his Miranda rights, and that Wyatt understood them. Wyatt then told Fleshman that he, Powell, Davis and Bailey had drank mushroom tea earlier that night. When Davis went to leave Fleshman said, Wyatt tried to stop him because he was concerned that a tidal wave was coming.
Wyatt went on to tell Fleshman, that Powell had held him down, saying he (Wyatt) couldn't be saved.
Fleshman said Wyatt then began rambling at the jail, apparently mixing up the order of events, and said that he'd cooked Powell's body parts in the wood stove at the Fizer Road residence. Wyatt told him that he had been tormented by spirits in the house, Fleshman said.
Lee said that in a second interview shortly afterward, Wyatt told him that Powell had told him that the world was coming to an end. During an altercation, Wyatt told him, Powell had him in a chokehold from behind and that Wyatt felt he couldn't get up. The two had trained in mixed martial arts together, Lee said Wyatt told him.
In continued rambling, Lee said that Wyatt told him that “Satan was in that dude.”
Lee said that Wyatt told him he'd done some bad things, and that he'd cut Powell's heart out and burned it because he felt that Powell was still alive and he was trying to “stop the devil.”
Lee also said that he did not believe Wyatt was under the influence of a hallucinogen. But Bailey, who Lee said he interviewed after Wyatt, appeared to be under the influence, and had a difficult time putting any order to the events of the night. She also told Lee, according to his testimony, that she thought Wyatt may have been upset with her and was “taking it out” on Powell.
Called to the stand by defense attorney James Fallman, Bailey said that the evening of March 20 started at a bar in Crescent City, where she met Wyatt and drove with him to the Requa house. Powell and Davis followed soon after, she said. Bailey said she had met Powell three times before, and had never met Davis.
Bailey said that Wyatt was in a good mood on the way to Klamath. When Powell and Davis showed up, the three men began making mushroom tea, and they all tried it. Powell and Davis had a difficult time stomaching the concoction, she said, and Bailey said she was teased by Davis that she should drink the tea or be the only sober one there. She testified she drank some and then lay down on the couch.
Bailey said that the three men went outside, and then Wyatt came to the door saying that something was “burning his eyes.” Davis was trying to leave, Bailey said, and Wyatt was trying to prevent him from going. Wyatt then yelled to Powell to get him his guitar. Powell's behavior had changed since he'd taken the mushroom tea, Bailey said, and he responded harshly to Wyatt's demand.
He said, “You wanna f'ing die,” three times, Bailey said.
She then heard what she believed to be Wyatt and Powell wrestling on the kitchen floor, then talking about surfing. Bailey then said that she saw Powell standing over who she believed to be Wyatt, and that Powell was spitting on him. Bailey testified that she heard sounds she thought were sexual in nature, though she said it could have been something else.
But Bailey appeared to have a difficult time putting the events in chronological order. At one point, she said that the lights in the house were out and she'd covered her head with the hood of her shirt. Bailey said she felt “pressure” on her legs, and Powell's voice saying that he could see her face. She sensed that someone was pointing a sharp object at her.
At that point, Bailey said, she heard glass breaking in the kitchen. She said she was afraid of Powell, and that she left the room and went to the bedroom, and that she felt she needed to be protected from Powell. At some point later she could see Wyatt curled up in a ball on the floor of the living room.
Under cross examination by Riese, Bailey said that she realized something had happened to Powell when she saw Wyatt curled up on the floor with Powell on the couch.
”I didn't know what to think, what I even just saw,” Bailey said.
Bailey said that while her initial recollection of the night had been disjointed, she later was able to put together the events after talking about it with her self.
The first-degree murder charge that Wyatt faces hinges in large part on his intent. Premeditation, or acting with “malice and aforethought,” must be shown to uphold the charge.
Fallman said that the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing showed that Wyatt was having a psychotic break and couldn't form the intent that would make him responsible for premeditated murder. Fallman also tried to say that Wyatt overreacted, trying to defend Bailey after he discovered Powell pushing down on her legs.
”My client was trying to silence the devil,” Fallman said.
But Follett said that he had no evidence to support the claims that Wyatt had had a psychotic break.
Riese said that the act of mutilating Powell's body itself took a substantial amount of time and showed evidence of intent, and that the removal of Powell's face showed extreme, callous indifference.
Follett agreed that Powell's death did not occur immediately after he had reportedly put pressure on Bailey's legs while she was on the couch. Follett ruled that there was enough evidence showing Wyatt had committed all three crimes he is charged with -- and that he'd used a deadly weapon in committing those crimes -- to hold him to answer to the charges.
Wyatt is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday.