A sword allegedly used to stab Ali Abdi Ahmed was introduced into evidence Thursday at the Leron Howard murder trial in Southeast District Court.
Jason Falk, Stutsman County sheriff's deputy, introduced the decorative sword with a wavy blade of about 18 inches during his testimony Thursday afternoon. The sword was found by anglers along the river near the Buffalo Scenic Road this summer.
Howard, 34, Jamestown, is charged with murder and criminal conspiracy in the death of Abdi Ali Ahmed on April 30, 2011. Ahmed, 18, of Jamestown, died of blunt-force trauma to the head and also had stab wounds to the abdomen. His body was discovered in a road ditch near Spiritwood.
Janelle Cave, 22, Jamestown, was convicted of manslaughter and criminal conspiracy in this case in February. She is currently serving 11 years in prison. During her trial she testified that Howard used the sword to stab Ahmed and that she threw it into the James River near the Buffalo Scenic Road.
The sword appeared muddy and corroded and no physical evidence from the weapon was introduced in court.
The sword was the object of a search by divers from the Valley Water Rescue unit of Fargo-Moorhead in November 2011.
Earlier in the day, Steve Mottinger, court-appointed defense attorney, challenged the credibility of prosecution witness Delmonte Jones.
Jones testified that Howard and Cave came to his house near Spiritwood at about 5 a.m. on April 30, 2011. He said that Howard asked to dispose of a body in a well on Jones' property. Jones did not initially report the incident to law enforcement officers, who stopped at his home shortly after the body was found 0.2 miles from his home.
"We were going into town and I got a phone call from Rah Rah (Howard)," Jones said. "I told him I got all the police out here and Rah Rah said 'I know why they are there. Good looking out for me n-----.'"
Jones said he then returned to the area and asked to speak with a detective. A later call by him to Cave was recorded by deputies.
In the call Jones asks, "You all didn't do what I think ya'll did?"
Cave is heard to reply, "Yeah" and then asks what he is talking about.
During cross examination, Mottinger asked if Cave and Howard had paid Jones $500 for marijuana the day before the crime.
Jones denied having any drug record.
When asked directly if he'd ever sold marijuana to Cave or to Howard he replied "No sir" to each question.
Mottinger also questioned if a trip that Jones, Howard and several others had taken to Montana in February 2011 was to purchase drugs.
Jones denied those allegations, saying the trip was to purchase shoes and clothes. He could not recall the town or mall in Montana where they had shopped.
In other testimony Roberta Jones testified that she was irritated by the repeated phone calls her husband Delmonte Jones received the morning of April 30, 2011. She said she had only briefly seen Howard and Cave when they were at the house.
Ellen McVay testified that she witnessed a blonde-haired woman placing a black sweatshirt in her garbage receptacle along 17th Street Southwest on April 30, 2011. She retrieved the sweatshirt and turned it over to law enforcement officers.
Kayla Zimney, Howard's former girlfriend, testified Howard had forced her to place a black sweatshirt in a garbage container. Zimney also gave Howard a ride to an apartment building at 1615 16th St. SE and was with Howard when he was arrested on April 30, 2011.
Troy Kelly, Stutsman County sheriff's deputy at the time of the incident, testified that he found a pair of Air Jordan shoes and clothing later identified as belonging to Leron Howard in a garbage container at 1615 16th St. SE. Kelly noted the possibility of blood stains on the shoes. Forensic scientists are expected to testify later as to the stains' actual makeup.
Falk returned to the stand as the last witness of the day. Falk testified to taking custody of the items found by Kelly and ordering lab work on the clothing. He also presented the phone log retrieved from Cave's phone indicating several calls and texts between her and Howard on the day of the crime.
Testimony Thursday ended with Falk still on the stand. He will return to the stand today for cross examination.
If convicted of murder or criminal conspiracy Howard faces up to life in prison without parole. The case is expected to go to the jury the middle of next week. Judge Thomas Merrick is presiding over the trial.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org