Bush axe comes out in Curry trial
Reporter Laura Ann Sills contributed to this report.
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Pictures, bloody clothing and even a piece of jawbone were shown for the first time ever in court Wednesday as testimony began in the trial for a 25-year-old Columbus cold case.
Michael Curry, 53, is accused of killing his pregnant wife and the couple's two young children, Erica and Ryan, with a bush ax in their Columbus home in August of 1985. He was not charged with the crimes until 2009. The case was reopened in 2008 and District Attorney Julia Slater claims to have new evidence linking him to the killings but the state never released anything about their case until now.
The trial began Monday in Muscogee County Superior Court with jury selection. After two days of questioning, the jury was selected and sworn in Wednesday afternoon and opening remarks started after that.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Crawford Seals says the state has circumstantial evidence proving Curry was behind the murders. Seals says there is no "smoking gun" in the case and Curry never confessed but it is the state's position that Curry is the only person with the means, motive and opportunity to commit the killings.
Back in 1985, Seals says Ann and Michael Curry had financial troubles and had even talked about getting a divorce. Ann was eight months pregnant and was hospitalized with complications from the pregnancy (they planned to name the baby boy Tyler) when, according to Seals, Curry started an affair with a female coworker three weeks before the murders.
Curry, the state says, was worried Ann would find out about the affair because he couldn't afford a divorce and couldn't afford to pay child support for three children.
On August 29, 1985, Seals says Curry left his job at the Bradley Center at 9:40 AM to buy a fan and did not return until 1:10 PM. Curry says he went to different stores during that time period but Seals says he can only account for an hour and 45 minutes of the three and a half hours he was gone.
Ann, that day, left 1.5 year old Ryan with her mother as she took Erica, 4, to get a birthday present. She left her parent's house with the kids to go back home around 12:30 but Seals says her mother, Bernice Johnson, cannot pinpoint the exact time. He says the time is important because it sheds light on whether or not Michael Curry had enough time to kill his family. At 5:30 PM that day, Curry came home and five minutes later, ran to a neighbor's house screaming "They killed my children. They killed my wife and kids. Why did they kill my family?"
Seals described the gruesome crime scene, which he calls the "saddest and bloodiest chapters in Columbus history." He says Ann was struck across her throat. He said she was nearly decapitated and also had a blow to her head. Puncture marks and areas where the blade had been dragged across her chest were also visible in crime scene photos. Ryan's body was found near his mother's in the living room. He was struck in the head with the blade and was gripping the shag carpet when he was found.
Erica was struck with the axe in the head and mouth. Her palate and teeth and glasses were found scattered across the kitchen floor.
Seals says the front and back door were locked and another side was not used and nothing in the home was stolen. He told the jury there was no signs of a struggle or sexual assault.
He also said Michael Curry bought the bush ax several weeks before the murders.
Curry was interviewed that night and told police he didn't know who killed his family or why. He denied any marital and financial problems and did not mention his affair.
Seals says Curry told police he knelt down beside Ann and Erica when he found their bodies but no blood was found on his clothing, indicating he never checked on his family.
Curry claimed the husband of the woman he was having an affair with committed the murders. Seals told the jury Curry called a coworker and told him to remove letters from his lover that were in his desk but the coworker ended up turning them over to police.
Chief Public Defender Robert Wadkins, Curry's attorney, countered Seals, saying the state does not have anything new in the case. Forensic evidence from the scene, he says, doesn't point to Michael Curry.
Wadkins says there was not enough time for Curry to have killed his family and told jurors Ann's mother has changed her story over the years about what time she left her house.
He called Curry's affair a "fling" and Curry told the other woman he wasn't interested in leaving his wife and kids. Wadkins says Curry got $30,000 in insurance after the murders and after paying for the funerals and giving some to his in-laws, he was left with $20,000. Wadkins says the evidence will show that Curry would have rather had his family than the money.
Curry, he says, has been grieving the loss of his wife and kids for 25 years and has never hid from police. He says Curry answered questions during long interviews and gave police samples of his hair, clothing, etc.
Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren was the first witness to take the stand Wednesday afternoon. He was a homicide detective at the time and responded to the unknown call at the Curry's home on Rockhurst Drive off Macon Road. He walked jurors through the crime scene, describing how he found the bodies and the ax. Curry rocked back and forth and cried as close-up pictures of the bodies were brought up as evidence.
Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren explained that he picked up the children's dead bodies and placed them on a single stretcher. He said it was not something he wanted to do, but he wanted as few people in the crime scene as possible.
Curry's daughter, Erica, was found in the kitchen. Part of the child's jaw was sliced off in the attack. Boren explained how he collected the jaw and the three teeth that were also detached. District Attorney Julia Slater had Boren hold up the piece of the jaw for the jury to see.
Boren said the temperature in the home at the time officers arrived was 90 degrees, if not more. Boren said it was "a hot, miserable, crime scene." No air conditioner was on in the home.
Slater showed pictures of other bedrooms in the home. She asked Boren several times if there was anything in the home that "looked like it had been rummaged through." Boren answered, "No." She also pointed out a speaker system and a jewelry box, other items of value, that were not taken.
A back door to the home had a pane of glass broken near the deadbolt. Boren explained that the investigators and other officials on the scene determined that the glass was broken from the outside, in. But they also determined that the door was never opened because glass was still in the door's sweep (the area on the floor that the door covers as it opens). Boren said he thought it was broken purposefully to stage.
Slater asked if there was any sign of sexual assault. Boren answered "No."
Slater asked if Boren thought hair, blood, and other evidence sent to the crime lab linking the defendant, Michael Curry, to the crime scene would be of interest. He said he did not think so because the defendant lived in the home.
There was a hair with black characteristic that was sent to the crime lab for testing. Boren stated the family had an African American babysitter and the crime lab confirmed that the hair was hers.
The police chief was on the stand for about 90 minutes before court broke for the night. His testimony will continue at 9 AM Thursday morning on the 9th floor of the Columbus Government Center. Other police officers are expected to be called to the stand after him.
There is no indication yet as to whether or not Curry will take the stand in his own defense. He is an inmate in the Muscogee County Jail and has been brought back and forth from the jail each day of his trial, changing into a suit.
He has entered pleas of not guilty to his murder charges.
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