TESTIMONY OF DEPUTY DAVID EPPERSON

Assistant Prosecutor David Fry conducts the questioning. “Good morning. Tell the jury your name, please.” » David Epperson. “And how are you employed, sir?” » I'm a sergeant for the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. “And on October 23, 1997, were you employed by the Jackson County Sheriff's Department then?” » Yes, sir. “What were your duties on that particular I guess very early morning?” » I was assigned to District Five, which is the Blue Summit Area of Jackson County. That’s an unincorporated area between Independence and Kansas City. Because the area is unincorporated, it’s patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department. My shift was from midnight to eight. It had been a routine patrol until I entered Lincoln Cemetery. I was patrolling along Blue Ridge Boulevard, which runs north and south between Lincoln Cemetery to the west and Mount Washington Cemetery to the right. I turned west on an access road leading into Lincoln Cemetery. There’s no gate there, so I drove right in. It was 3:44 in the morning. The cemetery is very dark. It has no street lights, there are lots of trees, and in October there are lots of leaves on the trees. It’s pitch black in there. About the only thing you can see are the lights of Kansas City off in the distance. Usually I just travel west on the access road until I come to a circle drive, which allows me to turn around and go back as I came, or turn south. I usually turn south, travel past an old abandoned building, and exit the cemetery onto Truman Road. There’s no gate at that entrance either. On that night, I was about two-fifths of a mile into Lincoln Cemetery when I observed a female lying on the ground, on her back. My first thought was that she could be injured, or intoxicated. Obviously, it was unusual. I notified dispatch that I had a person down in Lincoln Cemetery. I exited my vehicle and I yelled for the person to get up. I approached and shined my flashlight into the person’s face. She had a large wound from the bottom portion of her nose down into her mouth. Her eyes were open. Her arms were above her head.

There was a puddle of blood underneath her head. I backed up. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t anybody else in the area. I approached her again and checked for signs of life. I looked to see if her chest or stomach was rising. I checked her wrist for a pulse, but she had none. I also noticed that her skin was cold to the touch, and it was turning a bluish gray color. I returned to my vehicle and requested assistance. Once the detective unit got there, I secured a point on the perimeter up at Blue Ridge Road. They checked the victim’s pockets, and I think all they found was a key chain. They didn’t find any identification, at least that’s what I was told. The next day, I learned the name of the victim was Anastasia WitbolsFeugen. Fry has Deputy Epperson identify a photograph of the body as he found it. There’s no way we can see it from here. It’s entered into evidence. We’ll be allowed to see it during our deliberations. Fry also has Epperson describe the geography of the area for us, using overhead photos and maps. I made a quick sketch in my notebook.

Public Defender Horton Lance conducts the cross-examination. “Mr. Epperson, from your preliminary observations of the murder scene, can you determine if this act was committed by a stranger or an acquaintance of the victim?” » No, I could not.

That’s it! Lance asks that one question and is done. I can think of a dozen questions I’d like to ask right now if I could. Jury duty, though, is an exercise in keeping your mouth shut. Fry has no more questions, so Judge Atwell excuses Epperson. That wasn’t as informative as I would have liked, but there you go.

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