CANTON, Ohio – Jurors will resume deliberating tomorrow in the case of a former police officer accused of killing his pregnant lover.
The jury began deliberating this afternoon in the murder trial of Bobby Cutts Jr., then was sequestered for the night at a local hotel.
Defense attorney Fernando Mack said Tuesday that Cutts placed his pregnant lover's body in a field and left his 2 1/2-year-old son home alone, but those heinous acts don't prove he intended to kill her.
A day earlier Cutts said he accidentally killed Jessie Davis with an elbow to her neck as he was trying to leave her house.
After Cutts dumped her body, he denied knowledge of her whereabouts for a week as thousands searched for her.
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"Does that cause you to feel that he's a liar and a cheat and he's going to lie about everything else?" Mack said. "None of that will tell you whether aggravated murder was committed on the morning of June 14th."
Assistant prosecutor Dennis Barr told the jury that Cutts' story makes no sense.
"You don't hide the body unless you're trying to cover up a criminal act, a purposeful killing, especially when you're a trained police officer sworn to serve and protect," Barr said.
Cutts killed Davis and her fetus to get out of child support payments for a fourth child, Barr said.
"He knew when he was suffocating Jessie, when he was strangling Jessie, he was killing that baby inside her," Barr said.
Mack opened his closing argument by conceding that Cutts must take responsibility for dumping Davis' body and leaving his 2 1/2-year-old son home alone for more than 24 hours.
"Are you thoroughly outraged yet?" he asked jurors.
He pointed out that no witnesses testified that Cutts had been complaining about child support payments or about Davis' pregnancy.
Mack also reminded jurors that the medical examiner could not determine a cause of death and that Cutts' friend Myisha Ferrell didn't testify that Cutts strangled Davis.
Cutts has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated murder in the deaths of Davis, 26, and her fetus, gross abuse of a corpse, aggravated burglary and child endangering. He could receive the death penalty if convicted of the aggravated murder charges, which include intent to kill with prior calculation and design.
Defense attorneys asked the judge to instruct the jury on lesser charges of involuntary manslaughter or voluntary manslaughter, but the judge rejected their request, saying it wasn't warranted by the evidence.
Jurors may consider a murder charge, which would spare Cutts from a possible death sentence. They were to be sequestered overnight if they didn't reach a verdict Tuesday.
Cutts, 30, testified through sobs Monday that he swung his elbow at Davis when she wouldn't let him leave her home in northeast Ohio.
Mack told the jury there was credibility to Cutts' version of what happened. He recalled that Cutts testified that Davis was lying on the floor when he entered her bedroom, saying she was feeling nauseous.
"Why it makes sense to make that up? Don't know," he said.
Mack demonstrated how Cutts says he swung his elbow downward and struck Davis' neck. He reminded the jury that Cutts said he tried to perform CPR and revive Davis with bleach.
"The panic is increasing now," Mack said. "He knows that this is not supposed to be, not because he went in there with the intent to commit murder but because something escalated and got out of control."
Barr responded in his rebuttal by reminding the jury of what the couple's son, Blake, told an investigator: "Mommy's crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy's in the rug," and later "Daddy's mad."
"How can a 2 1/2-year-old make that up?" Barr asked. "That's evidence that Bobby committed aggravated murder."
Defense attorneys finished their closing argument by stressing the lack of DNA evidence.
Barr blamed Cutts for destroying any evidence.
"He knew Jessie and baby Chloe were laying up in that field decomposing in the searing heat in the sun of June, so when it was discovered, he would be able to say anything he wanted," Barr said.
He told jurors they'd have to use common sense to determine what happened in Davis' house on June 14.
"The only reasonable explanation that exists is that Bobby strangled Jessie," said Barr, explaining that it takes several minutes to apply the pressure needed to strangle somebody.
"It can't be accidental," he said.
He said Cutts only led investigators to Davis' body because cell phone tower records showed he was in the park area the morning she died.
Mack said Cutts led them to the body out of remorse.
"People who are murderers don't take authorities to the body," he said. "His conscience ate away at him."