Opening Statements in Clements Murder Trial | News
The prosecution and defense laid out their cases Tuesday in the opening statements in the murder trial of a Warner Robins man accused of hiring two men to kill his wife.
James "Eddy" Clements is accused of recruiting a father and son, Robert and Richard Sybert, to kill his wife, Joni Clements, last February. He faces 14 counts in all, including murder.
Houston County District Attorney George Hartwig told jurors the murder required premeditated planning. As proof, Hartwig said jurors will hear from two witnesses who had conversations with Clements about having someone "take care of" his wife.
One of those witnesses, Mark Rodriguez, a Robins Air Force Base co-worker, told investigators that Clements asked him if he knew anyone "who would kill for me."
Defense attorney Laura Hogue said her client was a frustrated man who said things about his wife, Joni Clements, that he didn't mean. Those comments, Hogue said, were misinterpreted by a mentally challenged man, Robert Sybert, father of the accused shooter, Richard Sybert.
Hogue claimed that Robert so wanted to help his friend that he told his son Richard that Clements would offer them money if they killed his wife.
Hogue said that Clements did not offer the Syberts money.
Hartwig says that about 10 days after the murder, investigators secured wire taps on the Syberts' and Clements' phones. On the wire taps, Hartwig says James Clements told a woman named Amber that he loved her.
Investigators also recorded an "affectionate" conversation between Clements and another woman who he sent a Valentine's Day gift a few days after Joni's murder.
Hartwig said this other woman will also testify that, in late 2007 or early 2008, Clements told her he was "tired of" his wife.
It took Clements 45 minutes to write his statement for officers the night Joni was killed, Hartwig said.
Hogue told jurors that Clements was confused and only then putting together the pieces after he'd earlier that night received a call from Robert Sybert saying, "All your troubles are over."
Clements did not want to tell investigators about the connection to Robert Sybert, Hogue said, because he wanted to be sure he was right first.
Jorden Clements, the daughter of Joni and James Clements, was called as the prosecution's first witness.
She testified that her parents were going to try a trial separation and that she was planning to move to Florida with her mother. Her father would stay behind.
About a week before her mother's murder, Jorden Clements said someone tried to break into their house. The family dog rushed to the front door and she saw someone running away from the house. The intruder, she said, was tall, slender and dressed in a black hoodie so she couldn't see the person's face.
She said her boyfriend, Chris Nixon, found Joni Clements dead from multiple gunshot wounds the night of the murder and called the police before calling her.
The jury consists of 10 women and four men. There will be 12 jurors and two alternates.
Houston District Attorney George Hartwig says he is seeking the death penalty for the accused shooter, Richard Sybert.