Accused murderer tells his story
SALINE CO.—It was a somber, tearful afternoon on both sides of the aisle as accused murderer John C. Curtis, Jr., 27 continued to testified on his own behalf.
Curtis admits he fired the fatal shotgun blast that killed Toby Jump, 51, of Niantic on April 4, 2009.
His defense team contends Curtis was suffering a flashback of sorts brought on as a result of a diagnosed case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The prosecution, however, believes Curtis acted out of anger and despite retreating from the site of the confrontation and being secure in his father’s home, grabbed the shotgun, loaded it and fired it toward where Toby Jump stood.
NOT PROUD OF VET STATUS
Back on the stand after lunch, Curtis was asked by his attorney Morgan Scroggins if he noticed any changes in himself after returning from an tour in Iraq.
“Not right away,” Curtis said. “I was just trying to get used to being in civilian life again.”
He said he continued making his National Guard drills regularly February of 2006 and “quit going in September 2006.”
Curtis said he was having emotional and mental problems.
“Can you tell us about the emotional problems you were having?” Scroggins asked.
“Well, my emotions, I would get upset with myself and had low self esteem; anxiety and depression,” Curtis said.
“And how did that make you feel?” Scroggins asked.
“Well, I didn’t feel like a worthy soldier,” Curtis said.
“And why was that?”
“I wasn’t proud of my vet status,” he said. “I wasn’t proud of being over there. I wasn’t proud of the war or of what the government had us doing over there.”
Curtis said he had problems not knowing if he had killed innocent civilians or not.
Scroggins asked him if he had gotten into any trouble for not reporting for duty on drill weekends.
“There was a chaplain who came by to check on me,” Curtis said (it was later brought out that he was considered on AWOL status, but that was changed when he returned).
Curtis said he spoke with the chaplain on approximately four separate occasions and ultimately sought help through the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Marion.
“And did you seek counseling?” Scroggins asked.
“Yes, I did. It was in January of 2007. In February of 2007 I was diagnosed with PTSD.”
“When you hear the term ‘flashback’ what does that mean to you?”
“I just zone in like I’m in combat mode,” Curtis said. “I go back to what I have been trained to do, to play a defensive role between anyone and me.”
Curtis testified that he was also prescribed several medications.
“I was given an anti-depressant….” he started, but faded out recounting it.
“But what were the names of the medications they put you on, if you can remember?”
“Zoloft for depression, Trazodone for sleep and Xanax for anxiety.”
Curtis said some time later he quit going to counseling sessions and took himself off his medications.
“And why did you do that?” Scroggins asked.
“Well… I felt like I was a soldier and I didn’t need help,” He said. “I saw it as a weakness taking the medication and going to counseling. I thought I was strong and could go it on my own.”
“But you found out you couldn’t, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, that’s when I started drinking whiskey,” he said. “I was drinking to suppress feelings.”
“And what feelings were you trying to suppress?”
“Of being ashamed of myself. I’d try to do things on my own and couldn’t,” he said. “That I was no longer with my unit and my battle buddies. I felt like I let them down not being around them.”
Curtis went on to testify that he had gotten in trouble with the law when he was arrested on a felony (aggravated) Driving Under the Influence.
“And it was aggravated because you were driving on a suspended license, isn’t that correct?”
“That is correct.”
APRIL 4, 2009
Curtis said that on April 4, 2009 he was had been drinking beer and was preparing to watch the Final Four basketball playoffs when his brother Jason and his friend Josh Noell showed up at his house.
He said Jason had later purchased a bottle of tequila and when told he couldn’t drink it at the house because John would be tempted to drink (John said he had sworn off ‘hard liquor’), Jason left and started a fire down at a nearby pond shared by the Curtis family who all lived in the same general area.
Curtis said he eventually went down to the pond and hung out, drinking another beer and after a time rode his father’s Cub Cadet lawn mower to the home of Terry Henderson, who was having a joint birthday gathering for his girlfriend Bonnie Mahan, and for Toby Jump.
Curtis said when he arrived, he asked where Terry was and was told he was inside.
Curtis said when he went into the house he found “Toby Jump and his wife and one of their kids in the hot tub,” and Terry Henderson busy with guests.
He claimed Mahan offered him a piece of fish from the fish fry while he was waiting on Henderson to finish escorting guests out. During this time, he said he spoke with Jump about fishing before being told to leave by Cody Henderson.
“Cody came up and said, ‘Why don’t you f*cking go back down to your house and do what you do?’” Curtis said.
He said he left and road the lawnmower back to the fire at the pond.
“I told my brother I didn’t get to talk to Terry but his son got all attitudinal with me,” Curtis said. “I told em I was going to go back up there and see what the deal was and asked them to walk up with me.”
Curtis said as he and the two other men reached the Henderson property, they were met by Toby Jump, Terry Henderson and Cody Henderson.
“Before we could even start talking in a civil manner Terry said ‘now you’re gonna have to leave’,” Curtis said. “My brother started getting mouthy and said, ‘Why don’t you make me?’
“Terry said ‘I don’t like this mouthy little sh*t anyway.’
“My brother can be a real smart ass.”
Curtis said he was the one trying to defuse the situation before it got out of control and that Henderson and Jason Curtis kept yelling at each other.
“I was telling m brother to shut up and Terry kept saying, ‘John get the f*ck out of the way. Get out of the way John.’”
Curtis said he never charged Henderson as has been the testimony previously, but that Henderson was coming at Jason and when John got in the way he “stiff-armed him” by slapping him in the face with his left hand, not the right (which testimony showed Henderson has limited mobility in due to an accident years prior.)
Curtis said the strike knocked him to the ground.
“I DIDN’T WANT TO KILL ANYONE”
There was no ambiguity about it: Curtis testified he got off the ground and ran to his parents’ house to get the shotgun.
“And were you searching for anything else?” Scroggins asked.
“No,” Curtis said. “I was going for the shotgun.”
“Okay and then what did you do?”
“I went into my dad’s room and grabbed it from behind the closet door where it has been kept for as long as I can remember,” Curtis said. “Then I went over to the dresser where I knew the shells were kept and grabbed the shotgun shells.”
Curtis said he then ran out the back door of his parents’ home.
“Then I stopped and dropped one of three shells into the breach,” he said. “I hit the release and ran across the yard.”
Curtis said he then lifted the shotgun into the air and fired the shot.
“I was not trying to shoot no one,” Curtis said sobbing. “I was just trying to scare them. Was it the right way, no. But that was the way I knew.”
“Did you feel like you were in danger?” Scroggins asked.
“Did you feel like your brother was in danger?”
“And you were trying to protect your brother?”
“Did you mean to kill Toby Jump?”
“Did you mean to shoot Toby Jump?”
“Did you mean to shoot Terry Henderson?”
“No,” Curtis said still crying. “I wish I could do anything to take it back. I didn’t want to kill anyone.”
ALMOST ENTIRE COURTROOM IN TEARS
Every member of the Jump family, populating the front row in the courtroom, was openly sobbing. Almost every member of the Curtis family was, as well, and were passing around a box of tissues; one woman became so overcome with emotion she left the courtroom at this point.
“What did you see just prior to shooting?” Scroggins asked.
“I wasn’t looking,” Curtis said. “I just knew they were in that direction. I wasn’t going to shoot at anyone, I was going to shoot up in the air.
“As I pulled up I pulled the trigger before I was ready to; I got nervous.”
Curtis said after he fired the shot, he dropped the shotgun and ran to where Toby Jump lay.
“I dropped it and ran over and knelt down,” Curtis said. “I could see he was dead. I got up and ran the other way.”
Curtis denies attacking Terry Henderson as Henderson leaned over Jump trying to administer aid.
The accusation, with supporting DNA evidence, is that Curtis butt-stroked Henderson in the back of the head with the shotgun, then beat him in the face when he turned around to see who hit him, all prior to Curtis running off and throwing the weapon in the pond.
“You know there has been testimony that you had Terry Henderson’s blood on the blue jeans you were wearing that night, don’t you?” Scroggins asked.
“Yes I do.”
“And you maintain you never touched Terry Henderson.”
“Can you explain how Terry Henderson’s blood got on your jeans?”
“No and I wouldn’t want to speculate if that’s what you’re asking me to do,” Curtis said.
Curtis said after he threw the shotgun into the nearby pond (where divers later retrieved it placing it in PVC pipe to preserve it as evidence) he went back to his parents’ home and hugged his girlfriend who had just arrived from work, as well as other family members including his little son, and told them something very bad had just happened.
Previous news accounts claiming the shotgun was placed in the PVC pipe by Curtis has been in error. The shotgun was placed in the pipe underwater by divers called to the scene merely to recover the weapon.
Aware “something bad had happened”
Under cross-examination by assistant state’s attorney Jason Olson, Curtis admitted that although he sought counseling on more than one occasion, he had stopped complying with treatment on his own on at least two occasions.
Returning to testimony regarding the scene April 4, 2009, Olson asked, “After you say you were pushed by Terry Henderson you got up off the ground and ran to your father’s house, is that right?”
“Can you think of any safer place you could have been than your dad’s home at that time?”
“And if you would have stayed there, nothing would have happened, right?”
“You say you dropped the gun and ran up to Toby Jump,” Olson stated.
“You said you could tell he had been shot, did you offer any type of aid?”
“I was, no, no…”
“Even though you have had medical training in the military, you didn’t offer any type of aid?”
“And is your testimony that you never touched Terry Henderson?”
“That you just got up and ran away, is that right?”
Olson then showed Curtis photographs of a battered Terry Henderson.
“Do you recognize who that is in the photograph?”
The picture depicted Henderson with a black eye.
“And you’re not responsible for that?”
“You said you saw Terry Henderson in the house, did he have that black eye when you saw him just prior to this?”
“I didn’t see him clearly in the house,” Curtis said.
“You testified that he came at you and you were holding him off your brother,” Olson pressed. “Did he have that black eye then.”
“It was dark,” Curtis responded.
Referring to a second picture, Curtis held Olson asked, “Did you do that?”
“No, I did not.”
Olson handed Curtis another photograph, depicted Terry Henderson with an injury to the back of his head and a bruise on his cheek.
“Do you recognize that photograph?”
“No, I do not.”
“You heard Stacie Speith the state police forensic scientist last week say that it was Terry Henderson’s blood found on the blue jeans you were wearing that night, is that correct?”
“You don’t deny those were your jeans?” Olson asked, holding up an evidence bag which contained the clothing.
“And yet you cannot offer this jury one explanation as to why Terry Henderson’s blood would be on your blue jeans that night.”
“No, I cannot.”
“You said after you threw the gun in the pond you went into your parents’ house and was hugging family members and told them you were ‘aware’ something bad had happened, is that right?”
“But you don’t know who attacked Terry Henderson?”
“And you don’t know how his blood got on your jeans.”
“I don’t know.”
“But you do know you killed Toby Jump that night!”
DID HE OR DIDN’T HE KNOW?
On re-direct, Scroggins asked Curtis if, while he was in his father’s home, he knew where his brother was.
“He was still out there, wasn’t he?”
“And the last you knew, your brother was out there still under threat of being attacked by Terry Henderson, is that right?”
“Did you feel it was safe for your brother?”
On re-cross Olson clarified his position.
“You indicated in your response to Mr. Scroggins that when you entered your father’s home you didn’t known where Jason was.
“In fact, your testimony on direct examination to Mr. Scroggins and on cross was that as you were walking backwards and after Terry allegedly pushed you down, at that point you don’t have a clue as to where Jason or Josh are isn’t that correct?”
To which Scroggins asked, “And did you have any reason that Terry Henderson would not continue to attempt to attack your brother?”
With a confession from Curtis to being the shooter who pulled the trigger and killed Toby Jump, many following the case believe it is the expert witnesses on the subject of PTSD who will sort out and solidify the case for the jury.
Expert witness testimony for the defense from psychiatrist Dr. Jay Liss is set to begin tomorrow (Thursday) morning running until lunch, with cross examination expected to take the rest of the day.
Psychiatrist, Dr. Terry Killian, is expected to take the stand as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution on Friday.
Closing arguments are expected Monday morning with the case going to the jury either just prior to or following lunch.
Short URL: http://www.disclosurenewsonline.com/?p=5080