CANTON, Ohio – A jury isn't considering whether a former police officer killed his pregnant lover, but how.
Bobby Cutts Jr.'s testimony that he killed Jessie Davis with a blow to the throat left the jury to decide whether her death was a horrible accident or murderous strangulation.
Jurors will continue deliberating Wednesday after spending three hours in the jury room Tuesday.
If convicted of the aggravated murder of Davis and her nearly full-term fetus, Cutts could receive a death sentence, life in prison without parole or life with parole eligibility after 20, 25 or 30 years.
The jury also could convict him of murder, which carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison.
Cutts, 30, acknowledged wrapping Davis' body in a comforter, putting it in his truck and dumping it in a park. Then he waited nine days to tell authorities her body's location as thousands searched for her near her northeast Ohio home.
"Does that cause you to feel that he's a liar and a cheat and he's going to lie about everything else?" defense attorney Fernando Mack said during his closing argument. "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. He picked on details, like Cutts' testimony that he sprayed his truck down after getting rid of Davis' body because of bugs on his windshield.
"Is that reasonable?" Barr said. "Or is it more reasonable to think that he stopped and washed that truck to get rid of trace evidence."
Cutts strangled Davis to avoid making child support payments for a fourth child, Barr said. Besides being the father of Davis' toddler son and unborn daughter, Cutts also has a child with his ex-wife and a child with a former girlfriend.
"He knew when he was suffocating Jessie, when he was strangling Jessie, he was killing that baby inside her," Barr said.
Mack 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 key prosecution witness Myisha Ferrell, a friend of Cutts, didn't testify that he strangled Davis.
Cutts has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated murder — which includes intent to kill with prior calculation and design — gross abuse of a corpse, aggravated burglary and child endangering.
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.
Cutts testified through sobs Monday that he swung his elbow at Davis when she wouldn't let him leave her home in northeast Ohio.
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.
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."