By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
ALBUQUERQUE — Jerry Fuller said he felt remorse seconds after setting a car on fire with his aunt and uncle locked inside, and characterized an accused accomplice as a drug pusher who’d “try to cheat you constantly.”
Fuller, serving a 127-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to murder in connection with the deaths of lifetime Portales residents Odis and Doris Newman, testified Thursday in the trial of alleged co-conspirator Stanley Bedford. Bedford, 43, is accused of aiding Fuller in the kidnapping and slayings of the Newmans.
The testimony came on the first day of the trial, following five other witnesses for the prosecution. After more than two hours of testimony, District Attorney Matt Chandler told the court he had additional questions for Fuller, and the testimony will continue today when the trial resumes at Albuquerque District Court.
If convicted, Bedford faces the death penalty. Under his plea agreement, Fuller will also face death row if his testimony is shown to conflict with evidence elsewhere in the trial.
Fuller said he was addicted to methamphetamines in 2005, and bought from several dealers, including Bedford. The two met in late 2004 or early 2005, Fuller said, through Bedford’s brother.
“He was expensive,” Fuller said. “But he always seemed to come up with it when nobody else had it.”
It was on March 1, 2005, Fuller said, he realized he needed cash in a hurry. He had $500 in rent due or he would be evicted along with his girlfriend and her son, and he also had utility bills due and drug debts totaling $150.
Fuller said his bank account was $32 overdrawn and he was unemployed, a fact — along with his methamphetamines habit — he had managed to hide from his girlfriend.
Later that day, Fuller said, he went for a ride with Bedford, and they talked about ways to get money. Fuller said he thought of his aunt and uncle. He hadn’t seen them in years, but he knew they had a nice house and were retired from a successful business.
The pair went into the Newman home on the night of March 2, Fuller said. Bedford struck Odis Newman with a pipe, he said. When Fuller saw the two standing next to each other, he saw blood covering the left side of Odis’ face.
“Odis Newman looked at me,” Fuller said. “There was a moment when he knew who I was. I was in trouble at that point.”
The Newmans were bound with duct tape on their ankles, wrists and mouths, Fuller said.
After unsuccessfully trying to withdraw money from two ATMs, Fuller said he found $900 and another credit card in a wallet he took from Odis Newman. With part of that money, he went to pay off two drug debts.
Bedford stayed with the Newmans, Fuller said.
When Fuller returned, he said Bedford wanted to put the Newmans in the trunk of Doris Newman’s Lincoln. With the Newmans in the trunk, Fuller said he went to Wal-Mart to pick up cleaning supplies and gloves because of fingerprint concerns in the house.
During the drive to Wal-Mart, Fuller said he opened the trunk to check on the Newmans. He said he told them everything would be OK and he was trying to figure things out.
Fuller said he went to Bedford’s house and waited for him to arrive. When Bedford got there, Fuller said he was instructed to get a gas can from the back yard. Bedford already had one in the black Dodge Neon he was driving.
After purchasing gas at a convenience store, the two went to a rural road, Fuller said, and poured gasoline on the Lincoln and set it on fire. Fuller described a big fire that almost burned him, and said he felt instant regret.
“I just suddenly felt that lighting the car fire was a bad idea,” Fuller said. “They could still be alive.”
Fuller confirmed his presence in security videos from Wal-Mart and Allsup’s displayed for the court.
Fuller said he told his girlfriend he did something bad and he was going to commit suicide. He said he ran up a huge drug bill with an intent to overdose on meth, but said he heard police were looking out for him.
Fuller said he waited until police came to his location, and he used a toy gun belonging to his girlfriend’s son. He was shot three times by the Clovis Police SWAT team.
“It was a form of suicide,” Fuller said.
An overview of testimony from the first day of the trial of Stanley Bedford. Bedford is being tried in connection with the 2005 deaths of Portales couple Odis and Doris Newman.
Relationship to case: Daughter of Odis and Doris Newman.
Testimony: Dixon said Odis and Doris Newman were “very loving parents” who followed routines.
Odis liked to spend summers at Conchas Lake fishing and would stay up later than Doris to watch television and eat ice cream and pork rinds. On Thursdays, Odis would help set up chairs at the Portales Senior Center while Doris baked a coconut creme pie for the weekly potluck, and the two would stay at the center and play dominoes and cards.
The two usually carried plenty of cash — two Wells-Fargo credit cards introduced into evidence, Dixon said, still had the activation instruction stickers.
Defense cross-examination: Dixon testified Odis’ 1997 Ford F-150 truck was normally kept in the garage but was sometimes outside because the diesel truck “smoked up the garage.”
The two were always at home after dark, and Dixon said she didn’t even think it was possible they’d be outside of the house after dark.
Evidence introduced: Photos of the Newman home (interior and exterior), jewelry belonging to Doris Newman, Odis Newman’s wallet and glasses, credit and debit cards belonging to the Newmans. Notes containing the Newmans’ phone number.
Relationship to case: Lived in trailer home owned by and located to the Newmans. Now lives in Eunice.
Testimony: On the night of March 2, she saw the dome light of the Newmans’ truck on when she arrived home about 9 p.m. from a nursing class at Clovis Community College.
At 5 a.m., she was woken up by the sound of a truck peeling out next door. She didn’t look out her window, but said the sound of a diesel engine was distinct.
Cross-examination: The house she lived in was located on a rural area with few homes, and she’d hear most cars coming by. She didn’t remember any unusual vehicles, and said she’d never seen Stanley Bedford near the Newman home or anywhere else.
Relationship to case: Lives on Roosevelt Road N 1/2, where the burned car containing the Newmans was found.
Testimony: Fields was heading to his job at a Portales air-conditioning business a few minutes before 8 a.m. He called 911 when he saw a burned car. He said the car appeared to be smoldering.
Cross-examination: He arrived home the previous night between 11 p.m. and midnight and saw nothing unusual. He did not walk all the way around the car.
Evidence introduced: A large map of Roosevelt County to point out where he lived, a photo of the road and photos of the car.
Relationship to case: Battalion chief for Portales Fire Department. Responded to burned car with rookie partner Dathan Culpepper.
Testimony: When he and his partner arrived, no threatening flames were visible and the car roof wasn’t too hot to touch.
The car was indicated as burned through, or a “total loss,” and the two noted a foul odor and a smoldering trunk. “It gave me a bad feeling … not knowing what is was,” he said. Flames were visible through a melted tail light, and the lock was melted to the point hand tools could open it. He noticed bones, then used sand to stop the flames from spreading and closed the trunk to preserve potential evidence.
Evidence introduced: Side photo of car, pictures of car trunk with human remains inside.
Relationship to case: Works with Office of the Medical Investigator.
Testimony: When he arrived, he was briefed by the state police and told of a home fire that was possibly connected. He found a nameplate on a belt buckle that said, “Odis.” The nameplate and bones placed in two body bags were sent to Albuquerque for examination.