CANTON, Ohio – A defense attorney told a jury on Monday that a former police officer knew where the body of a missing pregnant woman was but had nothing to do with her death.
Prosecutors say Bobby Cutts Jr. strangled Jessie Marie Davis, dumped her body, then lied to investigators as thousands searched for her last summer in a case that received national attention.
Cutts Jr. was feeling the pressure of his crumbling marriage, financial debt and supporting several children, Stark County assistant prosecutor Chryssa Hartnett said in her opening statement at Cutts' trial.
Defense attorney Fernando Mack asked the jury not to believe the depiction of Cutts as a womanizer.
"He's not the monster that's been depicted by the media," Mack said.
Cutts, 30, a former Canton patrolman, has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and other charges in the death of Davis and her female fetus. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
On Monday afternoon, the jury heard two audio recordings in which Cutts denied any knowledge of what happened to Davis, who was due to deliver their second child in two weeks, according to prosecutors.
Cutts told Sgt. Eric Weisburn that he didn't know if the child was his because she also was seeing someone else.
Cutts, who was married, characterized their relationship by saying, "It was more sexual than like a relationship." Then added: "Blake was born and that made things a little different."
He told Weisburn that he'd last spoken to Davis on June 13. He said he called her the next day when she didn't bring 2 1/2-year-old Blake over for him to watch.
In one of the phone calls, he left an angry message saying, "You could at least call," Hartnett said.
During that time, Blake was home alone.
Mack told jurors that they wouldn't like the fact that Cutts knew where Davis' body was and left Blake alone for 26 hours, referring to charges of gross abuse of a corpse and child endangering.
But he said that prosecutors did not have the evidence that he killed Davis and only hoped to enrage them enough to convict him of a murder charge.
"They hope that you'll lose your way," Mack said.
Prosecutors say the former police officer planned a detailed cover-up, down to a cut on his finger, which he said he injured while dumping the water out of a metal patio fireplace.
"It was actually a scratch from Jessie in her last moments to stay alive," Hartnett said.
Jessie Davis' mother, Patricia Porter, testified that Cutts was supposed to pick up his son on June 13.
After Porter couldn't reach her daughter on June 14, she went to Davis' house the next morning and found Blake alone.
"He's soaked in feces and urine," Hartnett said.
Porter testified that the 2 1/2-year-old told her: "Mommy's crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy's in the rug."
The boy repeated the statement for Weisburn as they colored on the floor at a neighbor's house. Blake then looked out the window at his house and said, "Daddy's mad."
Investigators found bleach dumped in Davis' bedroom, her nightstand tipped over and the mattress askew on the box spring.
Hartnett told jurors that Cutts, who sat with his hand on his chin throughout her opening statement, removed Davis' body from her house.
"He rolled Jessie up in the comforter from her bed and put her in the back of his truck," said Hartnett, adding that her feet hung out of the comforter.
Cutts then headed to the home of friend Myisha Ferrell, a high school classmate, and told her that he used his arm to strangle Davis, Hartnett said.
He told her to say that he had arranged for her to baby-sit for Blake — part of his plan to cover up his involvement in the crime, Hartnett said.
Prosecutors say Ferrell later told police of Cutts' admission. She then pleaded guilty to obstructing justice for lying to authorities and complicity to gross abuse of a corpse. She was sentenced to two years in prison. Ferrell is expected to testify Tuesday.
Cutts led police to Davis' body on June 23 in a park about 20 miles from her home, Hartnett said.
Her body was badly decomposed. Mack told the jury not to allow photos of Davis' corpse to anger them into a conviction.
Mack pointed out that the Summit County medical examiner was unable to determine how Davis was killed, listing the cause as "unspecified homicidal violence."
"They don't have a cause of death, rather they have hypotheticals," he said.
The trial is expected to last at least two weeks. An all-white jury is considering the case against Cutts, who is black, and his attorneys have objected to the panel's lack of racial diversity.