The witness who can provide one of the clearest timelines in the state's case against Jimmy Eacker also claims to have found a critical piece of evidence after having an illuminating dream.
Sandra Lamb, formerly Sandra Rule and Toni Lister's good friend, testified Friday and Monday about what she remembers happening the night in 1982 when Lister went missing as well as what occurred in the following weeks. Eacker, who has been charged with murdering Lister, was staying at the Rule home the night of Lister's disappearance.
The defense attempted to diminish Lamb's credibility by pointing out discrepancies in her conversations with police and struck an adversarial tone with Lamb from the start of defense attorney Benjaman Adams's cross-examination.
A particularly jarring moment came Friday when Adams asked Lamb if she would be willing to make eye contact with Eacker. Lamb refused. On Monday, Adams gave Lamb another opportunity to look Eacker in the eyes, and she held the defendant's gaze, unwavering for a few moments.
When prosecuting attorney Pat Gullufsen asked Lamb why she had been unwilling to look Eacker in the eyes initially, Lamb said she did not want to stare at a murderer.
"I was afraid to look at him," Lamb said. "In my heart and in my mind, he murdered my best friend brutally."
Superior Court Judge Anna Moran clarified to the jury that Lamb's statement should not be considered as fact.
Lamb's testimony took another interesting turn Friday when she said it was her 3-year-old daughter and not her 8-year-old daughter who claimed to have seen Lister walking in Seward the day after Lister's husband reported Lister missing.
Part of the defense's case relies on Lamb's daughter and another man telling police they saw Lister on Sunday, March 7, 1982. The state alleges Eacker killed Lister the night between March 5 and March 6, 1982.
When Lamb testified that her younger daughter was the one who claimed to have seen Lister on Sunday morning, Adams asked to excuse the jury and requested the case be dismissed or be deemed a mistrial.
"The state has never ever told the defense that [the 3-year-old] was the one that saw Toni. They've never given us her name, they've never given us her location and now they have this witness to say here's the girl that saw Toni," Adams said. "There's a clear discovery violation mid-trial."
Moran denied Adams's requests.
During her direct testimony, Lamb detailed her recollection of her interactions with Eacker the night of Lister's disappearance. She said Eacker came back to the Rule residence around 2:30 a.m., noticeably distraught.
"He was talking about his soon-to-be ex wife. He wanted to kill her boyfriend. He wanted to kill [his ex-wife] and he wanted to kill himself," Lamb said. "He was angry."
Lamb said Eacker went back to the bar and didn't return to the Rule house until 6:30 a.m. At that time, Eacker borrowed the Rule's truck, saying he needed to give a woman a ride home. He didn't return the truck until around 9:30 a.m., Lamb testified.
"I noticed that he had blood on him, on his hands and smears on his face and a little bit on his shirt," Lamb said of Eacker. "He said that he had been in a fight."
Later, Lamb said she inspected the truck Eacker had borrowed.
"When I got into the truck, the whole seat was wet. It was sopping wet. When I sat down, I, myself, got extremely wet," Lamb said. "He (Eacker) did say that he tried to wash the seat cover."
Lamb became an agent of the police investigation in 1982, and she said she did everything she could to help them find Lister. Part of that assistance involved Lamb finding Lister's glasses in the woods near the Seward dump a few days after Lister went missing. That discovery eventually led police to conduct a thorough sweep of the woods, which resulted in the uncovering of Lister's body on April 17, 1982.
"Toni'd been on my mind. The fact that Jimmy had been at the dump, Toni missing, the glasses missing - I just had a dream, just a bad dream," Lamb testified. "I felt a strong urge that I needed to go there (to the dump) and look."
When Lamb, her husband and their friend went to the dump, Lamb found the glasses.
"At first we passed them up. Then we turned around and I said, 'stop here,'" Lamb said. "I looked down and they were buried in the ice right below my feet."
Andrew Waite can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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