They asked the girl sitting alone on the swings at Rosemont Community Park if she was OK and if she should be going home. It was getting dark and the park was clearing out. She was fine, Jessica Funk-Haslam reassured them. She’d had an argument with her mother and wasn’t ready to head home just yet.
Jimell Moore, his two preteen children, son Meliek, then 11, and daughter Melieka, 9 at the time, and Moore’s friend, Ryan Douglas Roberts, gave a final wave to the girl, told her to be safe and went their separate ways. It would be the first and only time they saw her alive, Moore testified Monday in his friend’s murder trial in Sacramento Superior Court. Monday was the second day of testimony in Roberts’ trial before Judge Gerrit Wood.
The next time they saw Jessica’s face was on the morning news as a TV reporter detailed the girl’s death in a baseball diamond’s dugout at the park. It was March 2012. Jessica was 13. She had been stabbed and asphyxiated. Nearly two years later, Roberts would be arrested in connection with Jessica’s murder.
“It was, ‘Oh, wow, that’s the little girl we’d seen,’” Moore testified. He said he and Roberts were at Moore’s home planning to set off for a day of job hunting that morning when a friend called to tell them of the death at the park where Moore’s children often played.
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“We went into shock. It was a moral thing for us. We didn’t do our job. You see the child and, in hindsight, I wish I had told her to leave,” Moore continued. “The fact that this was the outcome and we were the last to see her, there was a shock factor. We were supposed to save her and we didn’t.”
Moore’s children, then Moore, told jurors Monday of their hours that March afternoon and evening at Rosemont Community Park with Roberts, a friend of Moore’s who regularly tagged along for trips to the park, often meeting them on his skateboard. They threw a football around and shot baskets. Melieka played on the slides and played tag with a group of neighborhood children while the adults grabbed a smoke before joining Meliek and Melieka for a last round of tag.
Moore’s son also said he saw Roberts show a folding knife to his father that day at the park. Jurors viewed a sketch Meliek drew of the blade for detectives during their investigation. Daughter Melieka couldn’t recall whether she saw the knife that day. The father, Jimell Moore, said Roberts carried the knife often as a tool to slice rope or make a quick repair to his skateboard.
They all noticed the girl with the goth-style haircut sitting alone on a bench, then a swing. Again, the children had different recollections. Moore’s daughter remembered Roberts talking with Jessica at the swing set before leaving the park. Moore’s son didn’t see them talk but recalled what Roberts told the girl as they left the park.
“He said, ‘You shouldn’t be out this late. It’s not safe.’”
Testimony continues Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court.