By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Clifford Webber’s last words as he lay dying of a stab wound to the chest were “I love you,” according to the woman accused of killing him.
Robbin Banister, identified as the 37-year-old Webber’s girlfriend, is charged with murder, two counts of tampering with evidence and conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
Bannister, 45, was jailed Tuesday on an outstanding warrant for an unrelated case, according to court records.
According to an arrest affidavit filed in Curry County Magistrate Court:
• Webber’s body lay in Banister’s home at 319 14th Street for approximately three days before she sought the aid of a friend to move it into an abandoned home next door.
• That friend, Jerry Hemmerling, went to police and reported the body four days later, records show.
• Police found Webber’s body at 315 14th Street Tuesday morning. Due to decomposition, they estimated Webber had been dead for a “long” period of time.
• Hemmerling told police he ran into Banister near 10th and Mitchell the night of June 13 and she told him a man had stabbed someone at her home.
• Records show an autopsy concluded Webber had been stabbed in the left side of his chest, possibly with a steak knife, puncturing his lung.
• Hemmerling said he followed her back to her home. He described a foul odor coming from the home and the body lying on the floor covered in a blue plastic sheet.
• Hemmerling told police Banister asked him to move the body to the abandoned house next door and retrieved another blanket to cover it.
• When he was dragging the body, Hemmerling told police he saw an arm that appeared black in color and assumed the person was a black man. Police noted decomposition causes darkening of skin pigment.
Hemmerling, 28, was arrested Friday on charges of tampering with evidence and conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
According to jail officials he is being held on $15,000 bond.
Police said no other charges are expected in the case.
According to the affidavit, the last time Webber was seen was the night of June 10 when he left work and did not show up for work the next day, leading police to believe he was killed that night at Banister’s residence, approximately four days prior to his body being moved.
When Banister was interviewed, she told police Webber’s coworker stabbed him in the chest with a steak knife at her home June 13, during an argument over beer.
She said the man ran from the home and she chased him but couldn’t catch him. She said when she returned to the house, Webber stumbled, then fell and kept saying “help me”, then told her he loved her, records show.
Banister said Hemmerling and another man were also there when the stabbing occurred.
According to the affidavit, the man Banister identified as the killer had an alibi for the time of the homicide. He also had medical conditions which prevent him from running.
The other man also had an alibi for the time of the homicide and said he had not seen her that weekend.
Interviews with others also revealed Webber and Banister were known to argue frequently about money and that Webber was living with her at her home.
After conducting numerous interviews with friends and associates of both Banister and Webber, investigators concluded Banister was the only person who had direct knowledge of the stabbing.
Investigators cited numerous inconsistencies in Banister’s statements as well as a lack of evidence to support her story, records show.
Banister has a criminal record reflecting battery and battery against household members.
As recently as August 2008, she was charged with misdemeanor assault on a peace officer and evading arrest.
That case is pending an evaluation to determine her competency to stand trial, court records show.