Seven days after testimony in the trial of accused murderer Cobey Wade Lakemper began, District Attorney Layla Zon began questioning him about the shooting of Wendy Cartledge-Carter and the events that he said led up to her death and the double murder of an elderly couple in North Carolina.
Zon spent the day attempting to poke holes in Lakemper's version of some of the events he testified to Thursday when being questioned by his defense attorney Joseph Vigneri, including the several attempts he said he made to take his own life and his attorney's argument that he was not trying to evade capture from authorities when he began his crime spree in the summer of 2005.
She led him through a chronology of the events, including the birth of his sons and his failed relationships with his ex-wife and ex-fiancée, the last of which, it's been implied, led to him falling into a deep depression just prior to the killings.
He spoke of meeting his ex-fiancée and the mother of his youngest son in 2003 when she moved into the same apartment complex as him. Although he was no longer with his ex-wife, the two had a good relationship and he was seeing his oldest son regularly according to his testimony. However, a contentious relationship between the two women ended with his ex-wife reporting information of a car theft and forgery to law enforcement and Lakemper was sent to prison for a year. During that time his youngest son was born and his relationship deteriorated with his ex-fiancée due to what he called "insecurities."
He also said that while his ex-fiancée knew about his past incarcerations and his drug and alcohol use, she didn't know the extent of his criminal history and he didn't volunteer it.
"People don't find that very appealing, especially people like her. She came from a good family and had led a good life... I figured if I told her the truth she wouldn't like me and wouldn't want to be with me," he said.
He talked about the split with her and how he had behaved afterward, wandering around Sedalia, Mo. and contemplating suicide and breaking into homes to take bubble baths. About his initial suicide attempt by taking 10 to 12 Tylenol PM's, which he said was not just a suicide attempt but a way to get his ex-fiancée to feel sorry for him. When Zon told him that medical records at the time he went to the hospital two or three days after that attempt found no drugs or trace of acetaminophen in his system he explained that he had been drinking a lot of alcohol at the time which would have helped to flush the traces out of his system. He denied not wanting psychiatric help then, but said he didn't have a way to get there at the time.
"It was entirely my fault [he didn't get help then]. If I had wanted it bad enough I could have found a way to get there," he said, explaining that it was just himnot "being man enough to face my problems."
Lakemper talked about his other suicide attempt and several robberies from Sedalia to Columbia where he stole the vehicle he took to North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. He admitted stealing checks and writing them to himself for cash and stealing the 9mm gun used in the murders. According to Lakemper, he stole the gun because he was still suicidal and since he hadn't had much luck killing himself with pills he felt a gun would be a more certain way to end his life.
"To me it was something I could take my life with very quickly and with certainty," he said.
"And that time never came," said Zon. "... It came for other people though."
"Yes, it did," replied Lakemper.
Zon asked Lakemper about the shooting of William and Joyce Covington in Pinnacle, N.C., having him tell his story again, asking why when William saw the 9mm Lakemper thought his only option was to get him inside the home.
"You knew what you were going to do when you went into that house," she accused. Lakemper denied that.
"I should have ran. I should have let him call the cops on me. But I didn't."
He said at this point he had stopped not caring about being caught and was "a little" concerned about authorities finding him. At one point Zon presented Lakemper with photos of William and Joyce as they were found by their daughter Denise on Aug. 7, 2005 and he refused to look at them, saying that he didn't want to look at them because he didn't want to remember what happened.
Lakemper said he was still on a suicide mission when he got off the exit in Covington on Aug. 17, 2005 and his thought was that he would like to see his mother and children once more before dying, so he was heading back to Missouri.
He told jurors that he struck up a conversation with Cartledge-Carter because for some reason he thought she might be able to help him score some drugs. He alleged that she had liquor there and that they drank together in the lobby of the hotel. He said that when he went into the lobby he had both a pry bar that he had purchased previously to assist in breaking into homes and the 9mm in the waistband of his pants and that he stowed them in a crack between the cushions of a loveseat in the lobby before sitting down to drink with the victim.
He also said that Cartledge-Carter performed oral sex on him while they were on the loveseat, although Judge Samuel Ozburn had to insist he answer that question, which Thursday he had declined to answer "out of respect for her family." When he testified about the alleged sex act, Cartledge-Carter's husband Randy left the courtroom, though her son's Dustin and Dylan stayed, along with her parents and several other friends and family members.
Lakemper testified that he struck Cartledge-Carter in the back of the head - possibly with the pry bar or maybe the gun, on the way inside the hotel from smoking a cigarette but reiterated that he shot her only once, stopping when she told him she had children.
During his testimony he told Zon, like he had Vigneri the previous day, that when he was captured by U.S. Marshals in Tennessee that his decision to kill himself intensified.
"I felt really overwhelmed with remorse and regret of what I had done and I didn't want to live anymore," he said.
Zon disputed that claim by playing taped phone conversations with Lakemper and his mother Judy that were made during his incarceration in North Carolina, several months after the murders.
During one conversation he is heard saying "I hate people with all my heart" and in another "I don't regret a thing I did." He also said that his only regret is that he didn't kill his ex-wife and ex-fiancee before he ended up in the jail in North Carolina.
The trial will continue Monday with more witnesses taking the stand for the state.