Prosecutors on Monday detailed the ordeal of a man who was tied, tormented and finally shot dead after he broke his bonds and tried to flee the Sacramento apartment-turned-torture-chamber where attorneys said a midtown couple held him captive for days in October 2013.
Jeremy McMahon and Michelle Okamura faced their first day of trial Monday in Sacramento Superior Court, accused of imprisoning, torturing and killing Eric Jackson in Okamura’s apartment at 17th and O streets.
For Jackson, the ordeal began early on Oct. 6, 2013, with calls and texts to Okamura, a midtown massage therapist, for a predawn rubdown. But Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Casey Newton said Okamura and McMahon, 34, had other ideas
McMahon and Okamura strapped Jackson to Okamura’s massage table. Okamura used a heated butter knife to burn Jackson’s stomach and chest, prosecutors said.
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Okamura, then 23, had told McMahon that Jackson had tried to sexually assault her during an earlier visit, and the couple planned to exact revenge on Jackson when he came to the apartment, according to Newton.
Within hours, Newton told jurors in his opening statement before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne Gilliard, the couple “worked to tie up, torture and, ultimately, kill” Jackson. Two days later, Jackson was dead, shot once in the abdomen, signs of his torture burned into his chest and abdomen.
She’s clearly present, but did not commit any acts relating to the death or relating to the torture of Mr. Jackson. She had no intent of torturing Mr. Jackson.
Paul Irish, attorney for Michelle Okamura
McMahon ordered Jackson, 22, to strip to his briefs, Newton said. His personal belongings were found in a plastic bag elsewhere in the apartment and his cellphone was found destroyed. McMahon and Okamura used bungee cords and electrical cords to strap the larger Jackson to Okamura’s massage table, strips of bed sheets and cloth to bind his wrists and ankles, and a ligature that cut into his neck, Newton said.
Evidence photos from the apartment showed the wraps still attached to the dead man’s limbs. A brief, disturbing video culled from McMahon’s cellphone showed jurors a struggling Jackson, writhing and groaning against his ties, as McMahon and Okamura watched alongside their attorneys.
McMahon talks about a break-in, but Mr. Jackson wasn’t breaking in. He was breaking out.
Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Casey Newton, regarding Jeremy McMahon’s assertions that Eric Jackson tried to break in to his apartment
Newton said Okamura also used a butter knife heated on the kitchen stove to sear deep burns into Jackson’s abdomen and chest.
Hours before his death, Jackson had hoped to make a deal for his freedom, Newton said. Jackson had money, he said, buried in his yard. He scribbled out a map, showed his captors where to dig.
McMahon sent Okamura out to recruit a friend for a shovel and muscle. The friend backed out, Okamura came up empty and returned to the apartment, Newton said.
But Okamura’s attorney, Paul Irish, said Okamura was hopelessly in love with McMahon and under his control and had nothing to do with the torture killing, but told interrogators she killed Jackson to protect her man. Detectives also captured a conversation between Okamura and McMahon in police custody in which Okamura appears to take blame for the “burn thing,” telling McMahon, “I know I’ll get in trouble for that.”
“She’s clearly present, but did not commit any acts relating to the death or relating to the torture of Mr. Jackson. She had no intent of torturing Mr. Jackson,” Irish said.
In the early hours of Oct. 8, Jackson managed to slip his bonds. He struggled with McMahon, shattering the patio window in a desperate attempt to escape, Newton said, before McMahon grabbed a .45-caliber pistol borrowed from a friend and fired the shot that killed Jackson.
Sacramento police were on their way to apartment 108, but McMahon and Okamura – who was arrested outside her apartment almost instantly in the ensuing chaos – had a story for the officers.
The couple said Jackson threatened them with mentions of ties to a local street gang and used a key he took after an earlier visit to break into the apartment, defense attorney Irish said. They said the fatal shot was fired in self-defense.
Police initially handcuffed the wounded Jackson, Newton said. Jackson died later at the apartment.
“McMahon talks about a break-in, but Mr. Jackson wasn’t breaking in,” Newton said. “He was breaking out.”