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Testimony continues in Dawson murder trial

November 30, 1999|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. ? A 41-year-old woman who was murdered in the bedroom of her Berkeley County home last year was battered a number of times by her husband, who testified on Friday that he cut her chin with a knife in a fight three months before they got married.

Howard J. "Jimmy" Dawson said the fights he had with his wife, Jeannette K. Dawson, sometimes got physical, but they otherwise had a "great relationship."

Jimmy Dawson's son, Thomas A. Dawson, was charged with his stepmother's murder, which happened Aug. 30, 2006.

Thomas A. Dawson, 22, of 343 Blair St. in the Berkeley Village subdivision, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree arson and burglary.

But investigators have said they initially considered Jimmy Dawson as the suspect who struck her in the head at least 15 times with a blunt object that police have alleged was a claw hammer, then attempted to destroy the evidence by fire.

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"I didn't kill my wife ... that's the only answer I got," Jimmy Dawson told defense attorney Sherman L. Lambert, who questioned the 42-year-old's statement to police.

"They told me I did it in my sleep," Dawson said of his interview with police, which happened shortly after his wife was found bludgeoned to death in the master bedroom of their mobile home at 345 Blair St. in the Berkeley Village subdivision.

"They can make you say what they want you to say," Dawson said of incriminating statements noted in a West Virginia State Police report.

Jurors seated for the third day of Thomas Dawson's trial in Berkeley County Circuit Court also heard testimony from friends and a co-worker of Jimmy Dawson, who accounted for his whereabouts from Aug. 30 about 6:10 a.m. until he said he learned of his wife's death that night while he was on his way home from work.

Jeannette Dawson's daughter, Trista Custer, testified that she no longer believed her stepfather killed her mother after giving an initial statement to police that strongly suggested otherwise.

After Custer told Lambert she only could vaguely recall her statement to police, he played the audio recording for the jury.

"The whole week prior to (Aug. 30), she didn't seem like herself," Custer was heard telling the officer who interviewed her on Sept. 1, 2006. "Her conversations were real short."

Custer also told police that her mother didn't have any friends because of Jimmy Dawson's jealousy of her and that "he'd kill her if she ever left him."

She said her stepfather became violent when he drank alcohol and accused her of things she didn't do.

Dawson said he drank three beers after coming home from work the night before his wife was found dead by his mother, Emma Jean Dawson.

Custer said she learned of the knife attack that caused a scar about an inch long on her mother's lower chin/neck area when she was 15. She said her mother told her about between 10 and 15 other physical encounters.

The trial will resume Tuesday at 9 a.m. with more testimony expected by witnesses subpoenaed for the state's case.

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