JUNEAU — Two versions of what may have occurred at 100 We Go Trail on the first weekend of December 2016 were heard Tuesday during the opening statements in the homicide trial of Laverne Ware Jr.
“You don’t have to like Mr. Ware,” said Anjali Sharma, one of Ware’s attorneys. “You don’t have to believe he’s a good person. You don’t have to believe in any of his life choices, but based off of the evidence, you have to find him not guilty.”
Ware, 38, is accused of fatally shooting Sesalie Dixon, his girlfriend and first cousin. 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 on Monday and bused to Juneau for beginning of the trial Tuesday. The trial is expected to continue over the next two weeks.
Dodge County District Attorney Kurt Klomberg went over the details in the case with the jury during his opening statements.
Klomberg said Dixon’s body was found after being reported by Vernon Mickey, the live-in boyfriend of Ware’s mother, Marjorie Jones. Klomberg said investigators believe Dixon was murdered the prior evening.
Klomberg described the scene inside the garage.
“It’s a large truck that the defendant wedged into the garage. Whoever got that truck in there had to do some maneuvering to get the truck into there,” he said.
Klomberg said Dixon’s body was found bent over in the passenger seat with blood pouring out of the truck.
“It was obvious that she had been in the vehicle for a while,” Klomberg said.
Two guns were found in the 100 We Go Trail home, Klomberg said. Although a pink gun was the murder weapon, a black gun was found with blood on it.
“In the backseat, there were three shell casings and they all matched the pink gun,” Klomberg said.
There is a lot of forensic evidence in the case, Klomberg said, listing DNA, blood stains, videos and cellphone carrier evidence.
He said expert witnesses will tell the jury that she was shot by someone who was on her left side and that she was hit while seated in the passenger seat.
Mickey first saw the truck sometime between 9 and 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2016, and had seen what looked like blood coming out of the truck.
Klomberg said Ware’s family had gathered that evening at the We Go Trail house for the funeral of one of his uncles. They left to return to Milwaukee sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. that night.
Ware and Dixon left together and Ware returned after the family left. Ware eventually returned home and went to Snappers Sports Bar on State Street in Fox Lake with Mickey.
“He repeatedly told people there, ‘Sesalie left me,’” Klomberg said.
The jury will hear about threats Ware made to Dixon, Klomberg said. In addition, a person who was in the Dodge County Jail will testify that Ware confessed to the homicide.
Sharma said Ware had nothing to do with Dixon’s death and it was actually Jones who killed Dixon, her niece.
“Marjorie Jones brutally executed the woman she hated the most — Sesalie Dixon,” Sharma said.
Jones had motive, opportunity and a direct connection with Dixon, Sharma said. Her motive started when Ware received his inheritance from his father. At the time, Laverne Ware Sr. was still alive, and he made Ware his power of attorney. Jones had a 15-year relationship with Ware Sr. and felt slighted.
“Mr. Ware received the money and Marjorie Jones didn’t get a dime,” Sharma said. “In the eyes of Marjorie Jones, it was her money, and she deserved the money.”
Ware loved his mother and bought her the home, but he had been in a five-year relationship with Dixon. Ware had bought a diamond engagement ring and fur coat for Dixon, Sharma said.
Jones despised the relationship that Ware had with Dixon and demanded a ring and fur coat of her own.
“She felt not only was she losing the money, but her son as well, and she hated that,” Sharma said.
Jones also believed Dixon had done other things against her, including taking money and her prescription drugs earlier in the week.
“She had threatened to kill Dixon over 10 times,” Sharma said.
Ware had no motive to kill Dixon, Sharma said. Dixon and Ware were enjoying the inheritance.
On the night of Dixon’s death, Sharma said Dixon had left. He and Mickey went to Snappers, but Ware left after that and went to Milwaukee with his friend. In fact, there were witnesses who saw Ware’s truck at Snappers after Mickey said he saw the truck in the garage.
“Jones and Vernon Mickey were the last ones to see Sesalie alive,” Sharma said. “The evidence will not support the finding that Mr. Ware killed Sesalie Dixon.”
Ware’s DNA, fingerprints are not on the weapon, Sharma said. There were no bloody clothes found that would belong to him.
Mickey was trying to protect Jones when he said Ware had killed Dixon, Sharma said.
Also on Tuesday, the prosecution began presenting their witnesses, including law enforcement members who originally investigated the crime in 2016. The guns and bullets were placed into evidence.