1st witness called: Investigator testifies in murder case

Posted: Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Seward police officer who led the investigation into Toni Lister's death in 1982, testified as the prosecution's first witness in the Jimmy Eacker murder trial Monday.

Jimmy Eacker

During his testimony, former Seward Police Department Inv. Robert Blaedorn described how Eacker became a suspect, how police discovered Lister's body and how police obtained the clothing that Eacker had been wearing the night Lister was reported missing. Prosecuting attorney Pat Gullufsen also played 1982 tapes of Seward police's interviews with Eacker.

In the interview tapes, recorded on March 7, 1982 - the day after Calvin Lister reported his wife missing - Eacker walked police through a story about meeting Lister at a local bar, leaving her outside another bar and then borrowing his friend's truck to give another woman a ride home.

Police became suspicious of Eacker's story when he couldn't explain a more than two-hour gap in the series of events on the night between March 5 and March 6, 1982.

Eacker told police he left the Flamingo Bar sometime before the band finished its set. Investigation found the band finished playing at 4 a.m. Eacker reportedly didn't borrow his friend's truck until 6:30 a.m.

"That's what's bothering me. There's a time frame in there that's not accounted for. See what I'm saying?" Blaedorn asked Eacker in 1982. Eacker insisted he walked directly from the bar to his friend's house.

Eacker told police he gave a ride home to an "Eskimo" woman and was then assaulted by the woman's boyfriend. Through further investigation, police found Eacker's story to be untrue.

"That was a lie because he had done mushrooms and he didn't want to give himself up to them," Blaedorn said Monday.

"What was a lie?" Gullufsen asked.

"The whole story about going out to Bear Creek, the brown-haired girl," Blaedorn said.

During the defense's cross-examination of Blaedorn, which will continue today, defense attorney Benjaman Adams questioned Blaedorn on Eacker's attitude during the investigation.

"Would it be fair to say that Jimmy Eacker was awfully cooperative with you in that interview?" Adams asked.

Blaedorn agreed. Blaedorn also agreed that Eacker agreed to give a statement, clothes and a blood sample when he wasn't required to do so.

When Blaedorn retrieved Eacker's clothing, he noticed stains that appeared to be blood.

"The shirt had blood on the right sleeve, on the right cuff," Blaedorn said Monday. "[There was] a pair of blue jeans with blood on the right leg and a pair of boots that had some kind of stain on it. I couldn't tell what the stain was."

Adams asked Blaedorn to expand on the blood on the clothing during cross-examination.

"I can't remember how much was there. I just remember seeing blood," Blaedorn said.

"Or more accurately, what you believe to be blood," Adams said.

"Correct," Blaedorn said.

Gullufsen asked Blaedorn to describe the search effort that led to finding Lister's body. The search is important to the case because Lister was reported missing on March 6, 1982, but police did not find her body until April 17, 1982.

"In previous searches, different officers went out and looked around, but we couldn't see anything," Blaedorn said. "This time [the time police found Lister's body] we had volunteers and we lined up and went through the woods going back and forth."

Blaedorn said the body could not be spotted from the road.

"There were too many trees, brushes," Blaedorn said. "There was a lot of vegetation."

Eacker has been charged with murdering Lister, who was discovered in the woods near the Seward dump more than a month after she was reported missing in 1982. The case is a former cold case that was revived through DNA testing.

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