Witness 'sees' victim in seance: Eacker murder trial continues slowly

Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010

Sometime after Toni Lister was reported missing and April 1, 1982, Janel Norstrem saw Lister's body during a sance.

"Going under I felt the pain that Toni had gone through. At this time, I didn't know how she was murdered, and I could feel all the horrible pain and all of that and I saw a flash of this brown area where she was. Where her body was? I didn't know at that time," Norstrem testified in the Jimmy Eacker murder trial Thursday.

After seeing Lister's spirit, Norstrem said she took herself out of the trance.

"I freaked out and pulled out of it. I couldn't take it anymore," she testified. "It was just too scary, too creepy."

Norstrem said she was a bartender in Kenai a few years before Lister's body was discovered in the woods near the Seward dump on April 17, 1982. She said Eacker, Lister and Sandra Rule frequented the bar. Lister and Eacker were close, according to Norstrem.

"They always seemed like a brother-sister kind of relationship. They were friends," Norstrem said. "They always would dance and hang out together when they were in the bar." Norstrem was the defense's second witness in the slow-progressing trial. Opening statements were held Feb. 5, and the prosecution did not rest its case until Thursday morning, after which the defense immediately called its first witness.

The proceedings have been slowed by witnesses needing to refer to reports to jog their nearly 30-year-old memories as well as Judge Anna Moran needing to resolve numerous issues outside the presence of the jury.

One such issue arose yesterday morning when the defense made a motion for acquittal on the grounds that the state's case failed to answer basic questions such as where Lister was killed or why her murderer committed the act.

"I agree that the test on review is that you are supposed to look at the evidence in a way that is favorable to the state, but that doesn't mean starting to stretch and starting to have mental gymnastics on basic questions," defense attorney Benjaman Adams said.

Moran denied the defense's motion for acquittal.

The defense seemed to be using Norstrem's testimony as an attempt to discredit the testimony of Sandra Lamb, formerly Sandra Rule. The state has relied partly on Lamb's statements to create a version of events that leads to Eacker's culpability. That timeline, fueled somewhat by Lamb's memories, suggests Eacker killed Lister on the early hours of March 6, 1982.

In her testimony, which took place Feb. 19 and 22, Lamb said she was able to find Lister's glasses after having a bad dream about finding them.

Adams attempted to cast doubt on Lamb's ability to turn a clairvoyant experience into meaningful results.

Lamb participated in the sance in which Norstrem claims to have seen Lister's spirit. After the sance, the three women who participated in the event discussed what had happened.

"I explained exactly what I saw, and I was the only one that got anything," Norstrem testified.

"You specifically told Sandy what you had seen in this hypnosis?" Adams asked.

"Yes," Norstrem responded.

Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com

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