Jury in BREC Park murders visit the scene of the crime - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Jury in BREC Park murders visit the scene of the crime

Jurors visit the scene of the crime Jurors visit the scene of the crime
Dominique Smith Dominique Smith
Jessica Palmer, Juan Palmer, Jr. Jessica Palmer, Juan Palmer, Jr.
Paige Johnson Paige Johnson
Trendall Matthews Trendall Matthews

Jurors in the first degree murder trial of Dominique Smith took a field trip of sorts Thursday. They loaded up on buses and actually toured the crime scene in a North Baton Rouge BREC park.

Smith is accused of slicing the throats of 3-year-old Juan Palmer, Jr., his mother 23-year-old Jessica Palmer, and her daughter, 4-year-old Paige Johnson. Jessica Palmer's 6-month old baby girl was also with her at the park.

The crime happened in 2008, and Jessica and her son Juan died that night. Paige Johnson and her baby sister survived. Paige took the stand against Smith, her father, in Wednesday's portion of the hearing.

On Thursday, District Court Judge Tony Marabella and the jurors went to the scene of the crime. They walked around the area where Dominique Smith allegedly cut the throat of the three victims.

Detectives believe the killings took place on a Sunday evening in 2008 at Doyle's Bayou Park on Pride-Port Hudson Road. After the killings took place, the two young girls spent the evening in the park. They were discovered Monday afternoon by a BREC employee cutting grass. Johnson and her son were found in wooded area of the park.

Deputies praised the then four-year-old with saving another life. According to investigators, after the murders, the four-year-old, whose own throat had been cut, saved her baby sister.

"If you can imagine a little 4-year-old, who had been cut, pick up her 6-month-old infant sister and carrying her out of those woods and get as far as she did to the front of the park. That's just a miracle," Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said back in May 2008.

After the trip to the crime scene Thursday, District Attorney Hillar Moore talked about why the jury needed to see the scene. "It's to let them see with their own eyes instead of just a piece of paper," said Moore.

The BREC employee who found the little girls and the bodies of Jessica and her son Juan took the stand Thursday after the trip to the crime scene. He testified about finding Paige Johnson and her sister. He told the jury "I noticed the young lady… she had a large cut on her neck."

The former girlfriend, and alleged accomplice of Dominique Smith took the stand Tuesday. Trendall Mathews, who has already pleaded guilty, was on the stand most of Tuesday to prove his role in the murders. Defense attorneys said Smith wasn't even nearby when the murders happened. They said Smith was working out at a jogging track.

During direct examination from prosecutor Darwin Miller, Mathews admitted she corresponded often with Smith. "I would start off letters to him addressed to ‘Pounder' he would call me ‘TCP' which means Thick Chocolate Pleasure," testified Mathews under oath.

Mathews also described a video of her and Smith going through Wal-Mart. She says you can see her picking out a bat at the store. Mathews later testified that Smith used that bat to hit the back of Jessica Palmer's head when he initially started the attacks.

Mathews testified that after he cut Jessica's throat he told her to stay with Palmer. She later said she heard a fight between Smith and Juan Palmer, Jr.

Mathews said she actually held Palmer's hands when Smith cut his neck. She says she pushed the 3 year old into a small ravine, he struggled to climb out when she said, "I pushed him back down into the ditch." 

The murder trial is expected to continue Friday and through the weekend.

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