Testimony: Man told friend he 'might have killed her this time'

Trial begins against E. Millcreek man in abuse death of girlfriend

Published: Tuesday, May 20 2014 5:38 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Mary Alice White said the sounds kept her from sleeping.

Despite initial confusion, she soon identified what she heard as the muffled yells of a man's voice followed by the distinct sound of a woman crying. Her mother, Blenda, was more literal.

"It's boom, boom, boom," she testified Tuesday, then imitated a wailing sound. "It scared me."

A nine-person jury began hearing testimony Tuesday in the trial against James Raphael Sanchez, 26, who is charged with murder, a first-degree felony, in the May 5, 2011, death of his girlfriend, Angela Jenkins, 44. Sanchez is also charged with obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.

In opening arguments, jurors were told about the alleged abuse that left Jenkins covered in bruises that spanned nearly her entire body and left her with eight broken ribs. Prosecutor Tyson Hamilton said the medical examiner determined her death was ruled a homicide caused by blunt force injuries and strangulation.

Police knew immediately they were at a crime scene when they responded to the apartment at 2230 E. 3300 South and quickly learned that Sanchez was Jenkins' boyfriend, Hamilton said. When they found the man at his friend's home, he was without pants, which were later discovered in that home with what appeared to be dried blood on them. Hamilton said a DNA expert will testify that both the blood on Sanchez's pants and in his ears would match Jenkins' DNA profile.

"The defendant admitted (to police) to being in a fight with Angela that lasted more than two hours," Hamilton told the jury. "He talked about hitting her, he said he 'thumped her' and said he 'choked Angela.' … When (a police detective) asked if she ever fought back, he answered, 'Kind of, no, she's just a woman.'"

Investigators had previously indicated that the woman may have been abused for 10 hours before she "lost consciousness and quit breathing."

The prosecutor said Sanchez also tried to remove the blood from Jenkins with hydrogen peroxide and water.

But that was only part of the story, said defense attorney Ralph Dellapiana, adding that prosecutors failed to explain why Sanchez attacked Jenkins. He said his client was distressed because Jenkins had been sexually involved with his brother.

"It was a double betrayal that led to extreme emotional distress and caused him to act out," Dellapiana explained.

He also said there was no evidence to show that Sanchez had intended to kill Jenkins and pointed to the fact that Sanchez said he administered CPR to the woman when she appeared to stop breathing and was the one who called 911 and requested an ambulance.

"These aren't the actions of someone trying to commit a murder," Dellapiana said.

Mary White testified that the sounds she heard coming from the apartment Jenkins and Sanchez shared that morning prompted her to wake her mother who, in turn, tried to call Jenkins before walking upstairs and knocking on the door.

"I was kind of nervous because I knew something was wrong and they wouldn't open (the door)," Blenda White said.

Finally, the woman called 911. Officers arrived before 7 a.m., Hamilton said.

Then-Unified police officer Alan Morley said he and another officer responded and heard nothing coming from the apartment. No one responded to their repeated knocks at the door and the door was locked, so when calls into the apartment from dispatchers went unanswered, the officers left.

Gary Warner said Sanchez called him the morning of May 5 and asked for a ride. When he picked the man up, Sanchez asked to use Warner's cellphone to call 911.

"He wanted to have an ambulance come and check on his lady," Warner testified. "He said she wasn't breathing."

Warner said he refused the request, but took Sanchez to a nearby gas station where Sanchez made the call.

Warner said Sanchez told him: "I might have killed her this time."

Morley said police were called back to the apartment around 10:30 a.m., this time with paramedics and firefighters. This time the apartment's door was ajar, although there were no signs of forced entry. Jenkins was found in a back bedroom and Morley said she appeared to be already dead.

There were three motions for a mistrial by noon Tuesday as defense attorneys voiced concerns over the release of a juror with a criminal history that he initially failed to disclose and because statements were made by witnesses that alluded to prior abuse. Third District Judge Denise Lindberg denied two of the motions, but said she would defer from ruling on the third concerning prior abuse so that she could hear additional evidence and review case law.

The trial is scheduled to continue through Friday.

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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