A frail white-haired woman was eased out of a wheelchair and helped into the witness box Tuesday at the capital murder trial of a man who prosecutors say assaulted her and murdered another woman in Salt Lake City.
Floyd Eugene Maestas, 52, is charged with aggravated murder which carries a possible death penalty if convicted in connection with the Sept. 28, 2004, slaying of Donna Lou Bott, 72, who was stabbed, strangled and kicked to death.
Maestas also is charged with first-degree felony aggravated burglary for allegedly breaking into the house of the woman who testified Tuesday, and allegedly roughing her up and robbing her.
The woman testified she had lived in that house for 70 years, 45 of them as a widow, and was watching TV when a big chunk of concrete smashed through a window. "I saw a shoe or a boot coming through my window," she said. "The person was behind my chair and began to grab at my clothes and grab at my blouse."
"He kept saying, 'Take off your blouse, take off your blouse, take off your clothes,'" she said.
As the intruder yanked her blouse up over her head and off her, it injured her arms because she has a torn artery cuff and arthritis, she testified, raising a trembling hand up to shoulder level to demonstrate her limited mobility.
"He took all the skin off of my arm. I was bleeding really badly."
The woman said she never saw the man's face and when he demanded money, she told him her purse was on the kitchen table. After he left, she pulled on a jacket to cover herself because she was just in her underwear and went to a neighbor's house to call police.
"I didn't want to go in their house because I was bleeding so badly, and I didn't want to bleed in their house," she said.
The predominantly grim testimony was lightened from time to time, especially when the woman laughed cheerfully after misstating her age as 98 and quickly correcting that to 89.
Earlier in the day, defense attorneys hammered away at the credibility and truthfulness of two other key witnesses even suggesting that reported jailhouse talk by one defendant indicated the two other men actually committed the crimes and they figured Maestas would be the easiest person to pin them on.
William Hugh Irish and Rodney Roy Renzo, now both 22, denied harming Bott or the other woman, and they both testified that Maestas was responsible for all the violence. Both said they accompanied Maestas when they broke into the two homes. Both Irish and Renzo admitted they cut deals with prosecutors in return for their cooperation in the Maestas case.
Under questioning from defense attorney Michael Misner, Irish admitted lying repeatedly to police at first regarding the crimes. Misner also noted that during a 2005 preliminary hearing Irish made this statement: "I am going to say anything so it won't hurt me."
But under questioning from prosecutor Cara Tangaro, Irish said he meant that he would tell the truth.
Irish testified that he and Renzo met Maestas that night and Maestas asked them, "Are you white boys down?" meaning were they willing to commit a crime. Maestas is Hispanic and Native American. Maestas asked the pair if they wanted to go rob a house and they said yes, according to Irish.
However, Irish testified that if he knew it was going to be a home-invasion robbery with someone present in the house he would not have participated.
"My definition of a robbery is you go somewhere and you take something like a TV," Irish said. "He (Maestas) didn't tell us there was going to be someone there."
Irish testified he saw Maestas straddling Bott's body in her bed as she kicked and struggled. He said he could tell it was a woman because of her muffled cries.
Irish, a co-defendant in the case who is in jail, also recently got a swastika tattooed under his left eye "for protection" because it affiliates him with white gang, he said.
"I am not a racist," Irish said. "If his people (Maestas) try to hurt me, I have people who can protect me."
Misner questioned Irish about a recent fight with a black inmate in jail and Irish making racist remarks a scenario Irish denied.
Irish said he fought because the other man called him snitch.
Misner also questioned Irish about charges that were filed and then dropped against Irish that alleged he pulled a gun on elderly black man and made racist remarks.
Irish said he never pulled a gun and did not make such statements.On the stand, Renzo testified that he saw Maestas stomping and punching the upper torso of a body on the floor in Bott's house. Renzo admitted his juvenile record includes "a couple" of felony sex offenses and an assault.