No part in murder: Cave testifies that she did not hurt Ahmed, feared for her safetyJanelle Cave testified in her own defense Tuesday that she took no direct action in killing Abdi Ali Ahmed and only helped to dispose of evidence of the crime.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Janelle Cave testified in her own defense Tuesday that she took no direct action in killing Abdi Ali Ahmed and only helped to dispose of evidence of the crime.
Tuesday was the fifth day of testimony in the case, which is being heard in Southeast District Court over with Judge Thomas E. Merrick presiding.
Cave, 22, Jamestown, and Leron Lee Howard, 34, Jamestown, are charged with murder and criminal conspiracy in the April 30, 2011, death of Ahmed, 18, Jamestown. The charges are both Class AA felonies punishable by up to life in prison without parole. Howard will be tried beginning on Aug. 7.
Cave told jurors she had not seen Howard strike Ahmed after they had left her trailer home in southwest Jamestown. She said she found Howard standing over Ahmed’s unconscious body across the street from her home.
“He had his hands up and said ‘I barely hit him,’” she said.
She also said she was in fear for her own safety in the period that followed.
“I got scared when I saw Howard drag Ahmed across the street to my car,” she said.
Cave said she had checked Ahmed for a pulse and found him alive but unconscious before he was dragged to the car. She testified that Howard decided to drive to Delmonte Jones’ home, where they had a conversation about disposing of the body. In testimony last week Jones said he felt the discussion was a drunken joke.
Shortly after leaving Jones’ home, the dome light of the car came on as Ahmed tried to open a door. She stopped the vehicle and Howard pulled Ahmed from the car.
She testified she stepped out of the car and saw Howard with Ahmed.
“He asked if he should kill him,” Cave said. “I said ‘No, there is no reason.’ That is when I saw the movement of him doing it to Abdi. Stabbing him.”
Cave started crying at this point in her testimony.
Ahmed’s body was found in a road ditch near Spiritwood, N.D., on April 30. Dr. William Massello, forensic examiner for the North Dakota Crime Lab, said in testimony Monday that the victim had received a blunt head injury and stab wounds to the abdomen but that the head injury was the most severe.
Cave said Ahmed’s body was left on the shoulder of the road. They then drove to the Buffalo Scenic Road and threw the knife and the gloves they were wearing into the James River.
“I did help get rid of the knife,” she said. “I did not feel I had a choice. I felt I was in danger. I just wanted to comply.”
Cave also testified that she made no attempt to notify anyone of the murder while the event was occurring or in the hours after.
“If he had found out I’d said anything, he could potentially hurt me or my family,” Cave said, referring to Howard.
Two interviews Cave provided to detectives on July 8, 2011, were entered into evidence earlier Tuesday as the final part of the prosecution case.
During the first interview, Cave related the entire incident but said she never saw a knife or witnessed Howard stab Ahmed.
About an hour after that interview was complete Cave requested a second interview with the detectives. She said that she was changing the information and said that Howard had stabbed Ahmed and that she had helped throw the knife and gloves into the river.
Cave is heard to say on the audio recording of the second interview that she lied about Howard stabbing Ahmed because she was scared.
“I was afraid because people say snitches get killed,” she said. “I thought my family would be in danger and me.”
David Ogren, court-appointed defense attorney, called two other witnesses for the defense.
Special Agent Cal Dupree of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation was asked questions about the interviews he conducted with Jones. Ogren particularly asked if Jones had ever claimed that Cave had said, “He’s not down with it.” Dupree said that statement had not been part of any of the three interviews he had done with Jones.
Jones testified last week that Cave said that phrase when he refused to let them dump a body in his well.
Ogren also called Jonathan Cave, Janelle Cave’s father, as a defense witness.
Cave is a former law enforcement officer. He testified to finding clothes matching those described as being worn by Janelle Cave on the night of the murder in the washing machine in the days after the arrest.
He also described finding clothes matching the description of items worn by Howard and Ahmed on the night of the murder on the coat rack in Janelle Cave’s trailer home. He offered the items to the detectives in the case but they did not take the items.
The clothing belonging to Howard was later removed by persons unknown from the garage of the trailer home.
The case will continue Wednesday with the cross-examination of Janelle Cave by Fritz Fremgen, Stutsman County state’s attorney. It is possible closing arguments will follow with the case going to the jury later in the day.
Tuesday morning one juror was excused because of a family emergency. There are currently nine men and four women in the jury. Only 12 jurors will deliberate with one juror as an alternate.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org