JUNEAU — A Beaver Dam man who said he was friends with Fox Lake homicide suspect Laverne Ware Jr. testified Friday that Ware claimed to be “a stone cold killer” and threatened his life during a conversation the same day prosecutors say Ware murdered his girlfriend.
Justin Devalle took the witness stand in Ware’s first-degree homicide trial at the Dodge County Courthouse. He said he was friends with both Ware and Sesalie Dixon, Ware’s girlfriend and first cousin, and called Ware the morning of Dec. 3, 2016, to find out what his plans were that day.
“I wanted to hang out,” Devalle said. “He said he had a funeral to attend, and to get ahold of him later that day.”
At around 8:30 p.m. that evening, Ware texted Devalle and asked what his apartment number was. It wasn’t until Devalle called Ware that Ware changed his tone, Devalle said.
“The first minute or two, he was just like, ‘Hey what’s up,’” Devalle said. “After that, he said, ‘I hate you. You lied to me. I’m going to kill you.’”
Devalle said he did not know what Ware was talking about and felt Ware had threatened his children as well.
“He told me he was a stone cold killer,” Devalle said. “I asked to talk to Sesalie, and he told she jumped out of the truck and was gone.”
Dixon’s body was found Dec. 4, 2016, in the passenger seat of a Dodge Ram owned by Ware, parked in the garage of a Fox Lake home he owned and where his mother resided. An autopsy revealed that Dixon died of three gunshots to the head.
Ware is charged with first-degree homicide, hiding a corpse, incest and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He could face life in prison if convicted and has been held at the Dodge County Jail since January 2017 on a $2.5 million cash bond.
Ware’s jury was selected in Jefferson County, due to pretrial publicity in Dodge County, on Monday and bused to Juneau for beginning of the trial Tuesday. The trial is slated to run through next week.
Defense attorney Anjali Sharma asked Devalle why he did not originally make a statement when law enforcement contacted him originally after Dixon’s body was found.
“Isn’t it true that it wasn’t until late February 2019 that you made a statement to law enforcement?” Sharma said. Devalle confirmed that was true.
Sharma also showed the court a text that Devalle had sent to his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his children, saying, “Vern said sorry for what he said but maybe just get a burner for a precaution.”
Devalle said a burner was a gun during his testimony.
Devalle was asked by Dodge County District Attorney Kurt Klomberg what the only thing he asked Devalle to do when he was testifying on the stand.
“You told me that when I testify I should tell the truth,” Devalle said.
Kaitlyn Perry, who worked at the State Crime Lab in 2017 as a forensic DNA analyst, testified about the gun prosecutors say was used in the murder. Perry said the only recognizable DNA on the gun was from Dixon and Laverne Ware Sr., Ware’s father who was hospitalized at the time and who has since died.
Ware’s DNA was only noticeable on the shift knob of the truck.
Perry explained that just because DNA was not noticeable it does not mean that it was not touched.
“You’d expect a more complete analysis when body fluids are present,” Perry said.
Eric Loomis was a neighbor of Ware’s on Feb. 3, 2016, and described Ware approaching him that evening and saying that his girlfriend had left him and wanting to have a beer with him.
Loomis said he declined because he had people over at the time.
Snappers Sports Bar owners Troy and Marcy Bentz testified that Ware came to the Fox Lake pub on the day of the murder.
The University of Wisconsin football team was playing that night in the Big Ten Conference championship game, which started around 7:15 p.m. Troy Bentz said Ware came in around halftime.
“Remember the Badgers started to play bad when he came in,” Troy Bentz said.
Ware returned later around 10:30 p.m. with another man, who Troy Bentz said looked like Vernon Mickey, the boyfriend of Ware’s mother, Marjorie Jones.
“(Mickey) sat at the bar and had a drink or two and watched TV,” Troy Bentz said. “They left at bar time.”
Ware’s trial will continue next week.