By Rosemary K. Otzman
Richard Jackson, 39, of Van Buren Township has been found competent to stand trial for the murder of his wife and on Feb. 26, 34th District Court Chief Judge Tina Brooks Green held his preliminary exam and found enough evidence to bind him over to circuit court for possible trial.
The judge’s decision followed testimony of four witnesses who described Jackson’s belief that his wife Travisteene was cheating on him, his multiple threats to shoot her and her lover, the variety of wounds on his wife’s body, and the plastic bag around his neck with duct tape when he answered the door at his home to police coming to check on his welfare.
Jackson was scheduled to be arraigned on the information at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice at 9 a.m. March 5. He has been jailed without bond since Dec. 17 when he was arrested by Van Buren Township police. Judge Green continued the no-bond status.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Nicole James brought four witnesses to testify at the Feb. 26 preliminary exam to successfully show probable cause that premeditated murder had been committed and Jackson was involved.
Assistant Medical Examiner
The first witness was Dr. Chantel Njiwaji of the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office. She explained the post-mortem exam she did on Dec. 18 that brought her to the conclusion that the cause of death was a stab wound to the leg and the manner of death was homicide.
Although she described several cuts to the body and “contact pallor” around the neck that shows the victim had been asphyxiated (but not strangled), the stab wound on the back of the left thigh, from back to front, transected vessels that caused her to bleed out.
Other injuries included a ¾” stab wound to the left breast near the edge of the left lung, two 2” deep incisions on the right knee, and stabs to the left palm and dorsal (back) right arm.
When Legal Aid attorney Mark Procida questioned the neck pressure testimony, Dr. Njiwaji said there was contact pallor that showed pressure had been applied to the neck and she wanted to rule out strangulation as cause of death.
She found the victim had been asphyxiated, something was around her neck and she was unable to breathe, but there were no bruises on her neck and she was not strangled. Cause of death was the stab wound on the back of the right leg which caused blood to pool in that area.
Dr. Njiwaji said there were just speckles of blood on the victim’s clothes. She said when the victim’s heart stopped, the blood stopped bleeding from the stab wounds.
The next witness was Jackson’s good friend Mafikuyomi Awosika, who said Jackson called him twice on Dec. 16, and they talked for three hours the first time and two and a half hours the second time.
Awosika said he and Jackson had been friends for nine years and their kids went to the same preschool.
Awosika said Jackson called him highly upset because he said he had proof that his wife was cheating on him. The call came at 8 a.m. and Awosika said he was in his office at his desk. He said Jackson was hyperventilating and couldn’t get his words out.
Awosika said he was trying to get his hands on a pistol to hurt her lover, her, and the children. Awosika testified that Jackson said he wanted to put three bullets in the lover’s head and two in his chest, two bullets in her head and two in her chest, and two in their daughter’s head and one in her chest.
“I cut him off before he got to the son,” Awosika told the court.
He said Jackson said he wanted to get a sniper rifle and shoot him from a long distance. Awosika testified that Jackson wanted to call Awosika’s brother to beat up the lover.
Awosika said Jackson kept saying, “’Til death do us part,” that’s what they signed up for.
Awosika said he told Jackson the beef was not with the lover, but with his wife and he needed to talk to her about it.
Awosika said during the first three hours on the phone, he had left his office and was driving around talking to Jackson. After that call was over, Awosika said he talked to his wife and she said to tell Travisteene, so he called her and told her some of the information, but not all the details. Awosika said his wife told him to call her back and tell her everything, and so he did.
Awosika testified that Travisteene must have talked to Richard because Richard called him an hour after the first call and asked him why he told his wife. That second phone call lasted two and a half hours and there was someone else named Gerald on the phone with Richard.
“I was trying to convince him to meet me somewhere, to talk to his wife. I told him we were going to get the kids …” Awosika testified.
Awosika said his wife went over to pick up the Jackson children from their home for their safety and his wife invited Travisteene to come with them, but she declined.
He testified Jackson said, from eight to 12 times during their conversations, “’Til death do us part.”
When the defense attorney questioned Awosika, he testified this was the first time Jackson ever said his wife was having an affair. Awosika said Jackson said he had evidence and during the phone calls he was crying and speaking in a normal voice, distraught, but never angry.
Awosika said one of the first things Jackson said was that he was going to take his own life.
Awosika said he did not call police.
“If you thought she was in any danger, you would have called,” said defense attorney Procida, and Awosika agreed that was true.
“You continued to tell him to talk to his wife. You didn’t think anything was going to happen. Your wife went to the house,” Procida said.
“We were fearful for the children,” Awosika said, adding that his wife was more worried about them than he was. “We offered Mrs. Jackson the option to come to our house. My wife picked up the children.”
He said he never called the police because, “I thought I knew him well and I did not think he would hurt Travisteene. My wife was more concerned than I was.”
Judge Green asked, “You never contemplated sitting here testifying?” and Awosika replied, “Never.”
Lt. Charles Bazzy
Next witness was VBT Police Lt. Charles Bazzy who testified he was working the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. night shift on Dec. 16-17, when he contacted Jackson on his cell phone. He said officers were doing a well-being check on him and were unable to get Jackson to come to the door.
Lt. Bazzy said Jackson answered his cell phone and said he didn’t want to answer the door and he was “tired of living.” Lt. Bazzy said he told Jackson that the officers will force their way in and he didn’t want anyone to get hurt.
Lt. Bazzy said Jackson said he just wanted to sit there and eat his chicken. It was around 3 a.m.
In about 15 minutes, Jackson opened the door and Lt. Bazzy said he could hear on the phone the sound of handcuffs being applied. He stayed on the phone until Officer Christopher Herrick said, “He’s secure,” and they hung up the connection.
Lt. Bazzy testified he went out to the scene, the house at 6352 Greenwood Ct., and Officer Michael Papin advised him that there was a deceased woman on the floor in the living room. There was a plate on the kitchen table, not far from the body, with a chicken leg on it.
When defense attorney Procida cross-examined Lt. Bazzy, the officer added that when Jackson came to the front door he had a white plastic bag around his neck with black duct tape and he took a picture of that in case it would be needed later.
Sgt. Michael Papin
VBT Police Sgt. Michael Papin was the final witness. He testified that on Dec. 17 at 3:40 a.m. he and three other officers were dispatched to a suicidal male and possible wife. The defendant came to the door and Sgt. Papin made contact with him.
He said he searched him for weapons and asked where his wife was. Sgt. Papin testified that Jackson said, “Down the hall and to the right.”
He said no one came to the scene before their group. He said Jackson had a white plastic bag with black duct tape around his neck.
The living room is just off the kitchen, Sgt. Papin testified, and that’s where Officer Bettendorf found a body under a blanket. Sgt. Papin said he checked for signs of life, pulse on the left wrist and respiration, but he noticed she was stiff.
“I called Command and requested a supervisor,” Sgt. Papin said.
He testified the table with the chicken leg was 10-15 feet from the body. He said they checked each room for further suspects or victims and found no one. There was no forced entry.
Assistant Prosecutor James then made a motion to bind Jackson over to circuit court on a charge of first-degree, pre-meditated murder.
Defense attorney Procida said the pre-meditation was missing in the evidence and Jackson’s best friend didn’t think he was a danger to his wife.
Judge Green disagreed, saying if a defendant says, “I’m going to do that and then within 24 hours I do it, that’s probable cause for a jury to decide.”
Judge Green then bound Jackson over to 3rd Circuit Court at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice at 9 a.m., March 5.
By Rosemary K. Otzman