FAIRFIELD — The most gruesome details so far in the trial of a Fairfield man accused of killing his girlfriend in 1996 were revealed by prosecutors Tuesday shortly before Judge Allan P. Carter ruled jurors would not learn about them.
Lonnie J. Kerley is accused of killing Danna Dever, who lived with Kerley and their 9-year-old daughter at their home in Cordelia. He reported Dever missing to Fairfield police in August 1996, saying she had walked out the door six weeks earlier and had not returned.
Prosecutors wanted jurors to hear testimony about a tanning bed that had been at the couple’s home for several years until just before police resurrected the cold case in 2007.
Kerley chopped up the tanning bed and got rid of it shortly before police showed up at his doorstep in 2007 to follow up on Dever’s death, according to grand jury testimony that led to Kerley’s indictment on a second-degree murder charge.
Dever’s badly decomposed, naked body was discovered in the summer of 1996 by farm workers in a ditch south of Dixon, but was not identified by authorities until 2007. Prosecutors said they believe Kerley may have cooked Dever’s body in the tanning bed before dumping her body in the remote pasture land.
Jurors heard details last week from a forensic anthropologist who examined Dever’s body. The doctor said Dever’s body skin was burned and discolored beyond what would have occurred from outdoor exposure and that her body’s total weight was only 31 pounds.
Jurors did hear testimony from the woman Kerley met a year after Dever disappeared and who he married two years later.
Laura Kerley recalled a conversation with Kerley shortly after they met in which he asked, “If somebody in your family murdered somebody would you back them up?”
Laura Kerley also described her ex-husband, whom she left in 2007, as being “extremely controlling” during their relationship. He would call her at work 20 to 30 times a day and would not let her go outside their home without accompanying her, she testified.
Prosecutors are expected to continue their case against Kerley when the trial resumes Wednesday.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.