VALLEJO — A suspected killer’s mother took the witness stand Wednesday in her son’s jury trial for a 1996 cold-case homicide.
Lonnie J. Kerley, 52, is accused of killing his girlfriend in June 1996. He reported Danna Dever missing six weeks after he told police she walked out the front door of their Cordelia home and never came back. Her body was found dumped in a ditch south of Dixon in 1996 but it was not identified until 2007 when the case was reopened.
Kerley was arrested in 2010.
Kerley’s mother, Eleanor Kerley, testified she and her husband visited the couple several times a week before Dever disappeared and that she had never seen her son strike Dever during the couple’s long, turbulent relationship and had never seen any marks or bruises on Dever’s body. The trial began in October with several prosecution witnesses describing Dever’s injuries and her talk of being a repeated victim of domestic violence.
Even after her son was arrested by Fairfield police on domestic violence six months before Dever’s disappearance, Eleanor Kerley never thought to ask what he had been arrested for. Kerley contradicted a previous witness’s testimony, saying she had not at one time stepped over Dever to pluck up the couple’s 9-year-old daughter as her son repeatedly kicked Dever, who was lying on the floor of their home.
Eleanor Kerley said she had repeatedly confronted Dever about her drug use and she repeatedly mentioned Dever once saying something about green slime oozing on the walls and bugs crawling all over her daughter. Her son’s defense attorney has blamed methamphetamine for luring Dever into harm’s way after she disappeared.
Eleanor Kerley also described being at her son’s home on the day Dever walked out the door and never came back. Her description echoed the description her son gave police in 2010 before his arrest.
Kerley also described how good her son was at customizing cars and competing in motorcycles racing. While her son had raced his motorcycles at tracks all over Northern California, she said he had never been to Argyll Park, a motorcycle track nearby where Dever’s body was dumped.
Eleanor Kerley testified last year in front of a grand jury that later issued an indictment on a murder charge against her son. Prosecutor Krishna Abrams ended the day by pointing to some of the contradictions between what Eleanor Kerley testified to Wednesday and what she told grand jurors.
The trial is scheduled to resume Monday with Eleanor Kerley expected to retake the witness stand.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.