Guilty: Jury rules Eacker murdered Toni Lister

Posted: Friday, March 05, 2010

Two days before the 28th anniversary of Toni Lister's killing, the jury found Jimmy Eacker, 56, guilty of first-degree murder.

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Photos By M. Scott Moon
Photos By M. Scott Moon
Defense attorney Benjaman Adams drops his head on his Jimmy Eacker's shoulder as the verdict of guilty is read against Eacker on Thursday afternoon in Kenai Superior Court.

Juror Kevin Hanson said his fellow jurors were basically in unison from the start of their 10-hour deliberation.

"There was solid evidence against him," Hanson said. "DNA, physical evidence. He was there at the place where she was found dead. There were gaps in a lot of his stories.

"I thought the defense did a good job, but at the end of the day, we wanted to see justice."

Defense attorney Benjaman Adams did not want to discuss the case in detail following the verdict.

"I was disappointed," Adams said. He said he couldn't comment on where the defense's case failed to get through to the jury.

"I don't have those answers right now," Adams said. "I really can't say."

Prosecuting attorney Pat Gullufsen said he was confident in his case, particularly because of Eacker's 1982 statements to police in which Eacker failed to deny his guilt.

"I think that the solid evidence in the case were the things he had said," Gullufsen said.

"The pathologist's finding was also extremely important," Gullufsen said.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Propst testified that Lister would not have bled profusely even though she was stabbed 26 times with a Phillips head screwdriver and left in the woods near the Seward dump on March 6, 1982.

"I just had a feeling that we had a good jury that was going to look at the evidence carefully," Gullufsen said.

For Deborah Davis, Lister's sister, the verdict provided a sense of closure.

"It was very important to go through this process and finally get the details to have some kind of clue as to what happened to her," Davis said. "She was my sister. I needed to know what happened to her."

Lister's sister Sheryl Mullins couldn't contain her tears when Judge Anna Moran read the guilty verdict. She said she wants to clean up Lister's legacy, which may have been marred by some of the things discussed in the trial.

"I would like people to know that she wasn't just a party girl," Mullins said. "She was also a very caring and loving person."

Lister's niece Tammy Davis, who sat through much of the trial's proceedings, said there's a lesson in the gruesome murder.

"I would like girls to know that this can happen," said Tammy Davis, who lived through the murder for the first time via the trial. "Most don't believe that it could happen to them."

During the month-long trial, proceedings slowed for numerous reasons, which took their toll on almost everyone involved.

Part of what dragged procedures early on were long cross-examinations by the defense on the prosecution's witnesses.

Gullufsen said that usually doesn't play in a lawyer's favor.

"The longer you keep witnesses on the stand, the attorney starts losing the battle with credibility and sympathy," Gullufsen said, referring specifically to Sandra Lamb, whose angst-filled cross-examination spanned from a Friday afternoon to a Monday.

Hanson said, at times, the defense rubbed the jury the wrong way.

"Some of the drama on some of the witnesses got to us," Hanson said.

Now that the theater of the trial is over, Lister's family said it planned to commemorate the justice in Lister's name as well as the anniversary of her death. They said they plan to visit the Kasilof gravesite and shower it with yellow roses - Lister's favorite flower.

"All the tension is wearing off," said Deborah Davis, who added she was appreciative of all the state's work. "It's always been Jimmy Eacker. They just needed that solid piece of evidence."

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



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