Jurors in Ryan Douglas Roberts’ murder trial got an extensive look Tuesday at evidence prosecutors plan to use to link the 25-year-old to the violent death of Jessica Funk-Haslam in March 2012.
A steady stream of Sacramento County sheriff’s and district attorney’s investigators went before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Gerrit Wood to describe the grim find of 13-year-old Jessica’s body on March 6, 2012, under a bench in a baseball diamond’s dugout at Rosemont Community Park.
Investigators say Jessica was beaten, fatally stabbed and asphyxiated. Roberts, who has been held without bail in county custody since his August 2013 arrest on suspicion of killing the Albert Einstein Middle School student, faces life in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors showed jurors a black tactical knife, recovered from the trunk of Roberts’ car, that they say is the murder weapon. A child of one of the defendant’s friends testified Monday that Roberts showed the knife to his father, Jimell Moore, on the day Jessica died.
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Video taken by sheriff’s investigators of Rosemont Community Park ringed with crime tape closed in on Jessica’s lifeless body. Bright yellow evidence markers sat next to scattered cigarette butts – Camel 99s smoked to the filters that Jessica’s parents say she may have swiped from her father – near the dugout as well as a condom wrapper near the girl’s body.
Investigators and prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Eric Kindall say Roberts and Jessica shared the smokes in the dugout before Jessica was killed. DNA evidence gleaned from the cigarettes and presented at Roberts’ 2014 preliminary hearing matched both Roberts and Jessica, persuading a judge to hold Roberts in the girl’s murder.
But Roberts’ defense counsel, Jennifer Mouzis, who told jurors last week that prosecutors had the “wrong guy,” questioned whether Roberts was small enough to make his way into the dugout through a gap in the chained and padlocked dugout gate. Mouzis noted that crime-scene investigators, initially unable to get into the dugout, laid markers for evidence spotted there on the dirt track outside while they waited for someone to open the gate.
She also alleged that crime analysts never tested Roberts’ knife against Jessica’s wounds. Rhonda Johnson, a sheriff’s forensic specialist testified that she found no latent fingerprints on a package of cigarettes found in the dugout. Another forensic specialist, Kathleen Carey, testified that latent prints found on the discarded condom wrapper were not Roberts’.
Mouzis said another man, a transient who occasionally stayed with the family of one of Jessica’s close friends at nearby Vince’s Motel, was involved in her death. Mouzis on Tuesday later pressed Jessica’s mother, Tara Funk-Haslam, on whether their argument the night Jessica left for Rosemont Community Park was about Jessica wanting to see her friend.
Tara Funk-Haslam told Mouzis under cross-examination Tuesday that the girls were friends, but that she did not know where Jessica’s friend lived or where Vince’s Motel was located.
Investigators questioned Jessica’s friend and the transient after Jessica’s death. Detectives ruled out the friend as a suspect and turned their focus to the transient before ultimately arresting Roberts.
Testimony will resume Wednesday.