The evidence table in the courtroom tells a grim story: a baby's stained T-shirt, a decomposed diaper, a bottle still filled with juice, an infant's carrier seat, a muddy baby's blanket.
Victoria DeLeon, the mother of Steven Roy James, whose body was found by duck hunters in the Bear River in October 1986, identified the items one by one as belonging to her dead son.As she looked at the light blue T-shirt wrapped in a plastic evidence bag, she broke down into tears. Bowing her head and covering her face with her hands, she testified, "That's my baby's shirt."
DeLeon continued her testimony Wednesday against her former live-in boyfriend, Steven Ray James, on trial for first-degree murder of their 3-month-old son. The trial is being held in Salt Lake's 3rd District Court because it was determined a fair jury could not be found in Logan.
The baby's body, wrapped in bedding and weighted down with rocks, was discovered Oct. 11, 1986, in a Bear River marsh, six weeks after the father had reported the child kidnapped in Logan.
James' defense attorney, Robert Gutke, contends it is possible that the body found decomposed in the marsh may not be the body of Steven Roy James. He said the state's case is circumstantial. "No one saw the death blow. No one saw the child kidnapped or killed or disposed of," he told jurors.
"Anyone could have done it. That cloth cover (a mattress cover found wrapped around the body) was available to anyone who wanted to obtain it."
Describing James as a "loving father who cared deeply about his child," Gutke accused Logan law enforcement officers off "dropping the ball" in the investigation by ignoring hundreds of leads and focusing too early on James.
"He (James) wants to know what happened to his son and why," the defense attorney said.
Prosecutors portrayed a very different portrait of James.
Cache County Attorney James Jenkins told jurors, "This is a sad story. A story of jealousy and immaturity, selfishness and death."
Calling the slaying a "repugnant crime," Jenkins said James killed his own son out of jealousy because the child was interfering with his relationship with De-Leon. James intensely resented the attention the child received.
The mattress cover found wrapped around the baby's body can be identified as belonging to James. He had used the cover to protect furniture when the couple moved to Logan.
The day the baby was killed, Aug. 26, 1986, James had offered to tend the child so DeLeon could spend a few extra moments with her son before leaving for work. James was unemployed. DeLeon was the couple's breadwinner.
That afternoon, James drove to a drugstore, made a purchase, returned to his car, and immediately called police, maintaining the baby had been kidnapped.
The city was essentially shut down while police searched for the child, said Jenkins. Two hundred leads were investigated.
Forty-six days later - after the baby's body was discovered - James was arrested. While incarcerated, James was heard telling other inmates that he had killed the child, said Jenkins.
Speaking in broken English, De-Leon described James as insecure, jealous, abusive, intolerant of crying children, incapable of holding a permanent job and a drug-user.
During her emotional testimony, she outlined the disintegration of her relationship with James after he began using drugs and after the baby was born.
Biting her trembling lip, DeLeon pointed to James in the courtroom and said, "I didn't like how he took care of him (her baby). A lot of time he said the baby got in accidents. That's what he told me."
When the baby was 2 months old, James explained bruises on the child by saying the child "fell out of his arms."
Another time, James explained injuries with a story of a car accident. When DeLeon insisted on taking the child to a doctor, James assured her the baby was OK and indicated he had taken the child to the hospital for X-rays, DeLeon testified.
When DeLeon questioned red finger marks on the infant's ribs, James accused her of "worrying too much." During an argument, he called her a "stupid Mexican" and threatened to steal the baby so she could never show the child to her relatives in Mexico - as she dreamed of doing.
"He said, `You always go straight to the baby. You don't care for me anymore,' " she testified.
To console him, she said, she told him she loved him but Steven Roy James was her first baby. Babies need more care than grown-ups.
"I tell him he is jealous," she testified.
James's behavior changed when he began using drugs. He abandoned her to spend time in Salt Lake City with his friends "getting high."
He told her, "When I'm using drugs, I don't care about you. I don't care about the baby. I don't care about nothing," she testified.
The trial is expected to continue for two weeks.