Photos present many questions

Mar. 31, 2014 @ 11:45 PM

State prosecutors showed jurors color photos of Letitia Hammond’s bloodstained body in Vance County Superior Court.

Jaquareus Holden, 18, sat at the defense table with his eyes downcast as the graphic photos of his slain mother flashed across the projector screen.

The state called two Henderson Police Department officials to testify Monday in the first-degree murder trial of Holden, who faces a life sentence if convicted.

Lt. Chris Ball worked as division commander of special operations when he was called to a homicide scene at 710 S. Carolina Ave., Henderson, on June 15, 2011.

Ball said he arrived around 7:15 p.m. to a crowd of people surrounding the house and cars blocking the street.

When he entered the home, he said he saw Hammond, 33, lying in a pool of blood. He said he ordered Detective Craig Steelman to obtain a search warrant shortly after they arrived.

Sgt. Matt Jackson, the crime scene technician at the time, arrived about 15 minutes later to execute the warrant, assess the scene and process for evidence.

Jackson photographed bloodstains on the kitchen floor and walls, as well as Hammond’s bedroom door.

These stains were at least 10 feet away from where officers found Hammond’s body in the back of the house near the washer and dryer.

A shell casing was found next to Hammond’s body, and a bullet was collected from the kitchen, according to Jackson’s testimony.

The officers who responded also located a shell casing from an overturned laundry basket found in one of the three bedrooms.

Defense attorney Jerry Stainback questioned Jackson’s expertise as a crime scene technician during cross-examination.

Jackson said he had taken a class on the subject for a few weeks but was not certified by the state.

Stainback also pointed out that the evidence Jackson collected had not been submitted to the State Bureau of Investigations crime lab until May 2013, almost two years after the night of the shooting.

Jackson said the lead investigator of the case was responsible for sending evidence to lab.

Terry Satterwhite, a juvenile court counselor at the N.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, also testified Monday as a state witness.

Stainback argued outside the presence of the jury that Satterwhite’s testimony was inadmissible in court.

“They want to convert this into an act of deliberation, meditation and cold-blooded murder,” he said.

The objection was overruled, and Satterwhite did offer a glimpse of possible motive.

Holden and his mother met with Satterwhite in June 2011, as well as the months leading up to Hammond’s death.

He testified that during a June 7 meeting Hammond stated her intention to send Holden to her father’s home in Louisburg after school let out for summer.

He said Hammond reported that someone had broken in to her home and the gun she stored in her room was missing.

He said Holden denied taking the gun.

At that point, he said Hammond mentioned her plan to take Holden to Louisburg.

“He was adamant about not going to Louisburg,” he said.

A computer forensics expert from the SBI crime lab, digital evidence unit is scheduled to testify as a state witness tomorrow.

The expert, Chad Evans, will introduce text message conversations he obtained from Holden’s cellphone.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.