'I remember her screaming about us dancing on the dance floor': Eacker trial: witness accounts events on night of Lister's death

Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010

On the March 1982 night that Toni Lister disappeared, Debbie Wood danced with Lister's husband at a Seward bar.

The interaction made Toni Lister angry, Wood testified Friday in the Jimmy Eacker murder trial.

"I remember her screaming about us dancing on the dance floor. I didn't think nothing of it," Wood said in her direct examination testimony. Then Toni Lister threw her drink in her husband's face, according to Wood.

Wood admitted she had sex with Calvin Lister sometime in 1982.

"I slept with him," Wood said, "but I don't know if it was that evening or not."

Defense attorney Benjaman Adams asked Wood why she thought Lister might have been so upset at the dance.

"He'd been caught cheating on her before," Wood testified.

"So she may have thought that's what would have happened with you?" Adams asked. "Turns out she was right."

Regardless of when Wood slept with Calvin Lister, her testimony painted the adulterous picture of the Lister's relationship that the defense wants the jury to see. An argumentative marriage deflects attention from Eacker, who has been charged with Lister's murder, and provides Calvin Lister with a motive for killing his wife, the defense argues.

The state's case against Eacker, which came to life more than 20 years after the murder because of DNA evidence, depends partly on Eacker being the last person seen with Toni Lister on March 6, 1982.

During a rapid-fire Friday when the jury heard testimony from 10 witnesses, several people who were at the Flamingo bar in Seward the night Lister went missing said Eacker and Lister were flirting and may have left together.

"They were maybe touching each other," David Green said he observed that night. "Not blatantly, but you could definitely see that there was some attraction there."

In the prosecution's cross-examination of Green, attorney Pat Gullufsen pressed Green on how certain he was that Eacker and Lister went home together.

"I can't say that they left together, but he was in the truck and she looked like she was walking to the truck to get in." Green said this would have been around 5 a.m. on March, 6, 1982.

Lister never returned home that night. Her husband Calvin reported her missing to the police. On April 17, 1982, Lister's body was found in the woods near the Seward dump, impaled approximately 26 times with a Phillips head screwdriver.

The truck that Green said he saw Eacker sitting in belonged to Mike Rule. The state's case alleges Eacker walked to the Rule residence to borrow the truck around 6:30 a.m. on the night Lister disappeared. Eacker returned the truck to the Rules around 9:30 a.m. and washed blood off his arms, hands and face, according to Sandra Rule, one of the state's witnesses.

Andrew Singleton, a witness for the defense who played in Mike Rule's band and was in downtown Seward the night Lister went missing, testified Eacker didn't go to the Rule residence to borrow the keys to the vehicle.

"He (Eacker) talked to Mike Rule and asked to borrow his truck," Singleton testified.

"Right there in the bar?" Adams asked.

"Yes, sir."

If the defense can successfully discredit Sandra Rule's story, it can begin to convince the jury of Eacker's innocence.

Singleton, whose testimony could be marred by a criminal record, also discussed his observations of Toni Lister and Eacker's interactions on March 6, 1982. He said the two were playful, friendly. Then Eacker left bar, Singleton testified.

"And she was right on his heels."

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

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