The woman convicted of manslaughter in the death of Abdi Ali Ahmed testified Monday that she sold small amounts of drugs to him before he was killed.
Janelle Cave testified for four hours in the trial of Leron Howard, 34, Jamestown, in Southeast District Court in Jamestown.
"Every once in a while," Cave responded when asked if she had business dealings with Ahmed for marijuana by Steve Mottinger, Howard's court-appointed defense attorney. She described the sales as a "gram or two."
Howard is charged with murder and criminal conspiracy in Ahmed's death. Ahmed's body was found in a road ditch near Spiritwood on April 30, 2011. Ahmed died of blunt force trauma to the head and was also stabbed in the abdomen.
The charges are Class AA felonies punishable by life in prison without parole.
Cave was convicted of manslaughter and criminal conspiracy in February. She is currently serving an 11-year sentence. Part of her sentence required her to testify against Howard.
Fritz Fremgen, Stutsman County state's attorney, questioned Cave about the events of the night Ahmed was killed.
Cave testified that Ahmed returned to the trailer she shared with Howard after a house party. Later Howard and Ahmed left the house and she followed them out less than five minutes later. At that time, Ahmed was lying on the ground across the street, unconscious with Howard standing above him.
"He said he hardly hit him," Cave said.
Cave said Ahmed was unconscious but had a pulse at that time.
Fremgen had Cave demonstrate nudging Ahmed with her foot in an attempt to revive him. She also demonstrated how Howard tried to roll Ahmed with his foot.
Cave said Howard then dragged Ahmed across the street and placed him in Cave's car. They then left for Jones' home near Spiritwood. Once there she checked on Ahmed and found him in the same condition.
Howard and Cave smoked a marijuana cigarette with Jones and joked about having an unconscious person in the car, Cave said.
Shortly after they left Jones' home, the dome light came on in the car. Cave testified that Howard told her to stop the car. He got out and removed Ahmed from the car. She testified she saw the tip of a knife and saw Howard make a stabbing motion. She said she could not determine if Ahmed was standing on his own or was being held up by Howard at the time.
"I saw the tip of the knife and motions of Leron so..." Cave said. "I got back in the car after that."
The testimony concerning drug sales came while Cave was under cross examination by Mottinger.
Mottinger also asked about a visit Cave, Howard and Alexa Stoller, Cave and Howard's roommate, made to Delmonte Jones on April 29, 2011.
"The three of you went to Delmonte and gave him $500 for dope?" Mottinger asked. "How much were you getting?"
"A few ounces," Cave said. "I believe the drugs were coming from Montana."
Cave also said she called Jones a couple of times the next day, April 30, 2011, looking for the marijuana.
Jones testified Aug. 16 that he had no drug dealings with Cave or anyone else. He said Cave and Howard came to his home at 5 a.m. on April 30, 2011, and asked to dispose of a body in a well on his property.
Cave also identified the sword found in the river this summer.
"He stabbed Abdi with it," she said, indicating Howard.
Under cross examination Cave admitted sending a note to Howard while both were in custody in the Stutsman County Correctional Center. The two had been ordered to have no contact with each other while in custody.
The note appeared to be several handwritten pages.
"You told him in the note, 'I know you didn't do anything?'" Mottinger asked.
Cave said it was not her intention to suggest a story the two could present in court.
"I wrote that so he could hear what he wanted to hear so he would trust me," she said.
In other testimony, Steve Williams of Wimbledon testified to finding the sword in the James River in July. He then called law enforcement officers who took possession of the item which was introduced into evidence Thursday.
Jesse Smith, computer forensics officer with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, testified to gathering the data from a phone taken from Howard when he was arrested. The list of text messages was 21 pages long and extended back to March 13, 2011.
Mottinger objected to the evidence, saying it included too much information not relevant to the case. After a one-hour recess in which the attorneys argued outside the presence of the jury or spectators, the text message list was redacted to include only messages from April 29 and 30.
Fremgen did not bring any of the text messages to the attention of the jurors or display the list of messages to the jury.
Late Monday, Judge Thomas Merrick told the jury testimony may conclude today. Closing arguments and jury deliberation would follow.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com