LAFAYETTE — Witnesses in the final day of testimony in Daniel Harmon’s murder trial told the jury Monday that others besides Harmon could have killed Christine Marie Wood in July 1989.
The witnesses included inmate Michael Dickerson, who is serving 40 years for rape and oral sexual battery convictions, and a woman who said she was Dickerson’s 14-year-old lover in 1989. Both testified they had lived near the Marigny Circle apartments when Wood was killed.
Dickerson was brought to the courtroom in prison fatigues and handcuffs. He is serving consecutive prison terms totaling 40 years for an October 1989 rape and aggravated oral sexual battery that occurred in the Marigny Circle apartments in the months following Wood’s murder.
Dickerson testified that after Wood’s murder, he was trying to solve the case himself. He said another man confessed to killing Wood.
“The whole neighborhood was freaked out,” he said, and added he was “trying to do the right thing.”
In questioning Dickerson, prosecutor Roger Hamilton suggested Dickerson came up with the story after he was sentenced to 30 years for rape and 10 years for aggravated oral sexual battery, two sentences to be served consecutively.
Hamilton suggested Dickerson told a police officer in 1993 about the purported confession, years after the murder, to make a deal to lessen his 40-year prison term.
Hamilton asked Dickerson if he “knew the system.”
“I know the system,” Dickerson said.
“You know how it works?” Hamilton said.
“Yes,” Dickerson said.
Tasha Stafford testified that in 1989, when she was 14, she was one of Dickerson’s lovers and took drugs with him. She said Dickerson confessed to her that he killed Wood. She also said Dickerson asked her to get rid of a knife that might have been used to cut Wood’s throat.
Wood was found July 26, 1989, in the bedroom of her burned-out apartment. She had been shot three times in the head, a ligature was tied around her neck that caused a deep cut, and her body was set on fire.
Harmon faces life in prison without parole if he’s convicted of killing Wood in the apartment Wood shared with her boyfriend, who was working offshore at the time.
The jury on Tuesday is expected to hear closing arguments, then retreat to deliberate the verdict.
The killing of Wood was a cold case until the early 2000s, when the Louisiana Legislature allocated money to examine DNA evidence in unsolved murders. Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives kept enough of the evidence taken from Wood’s body to work up a DNA profile of someone who had sex with her before she died.
Harmon’s DNA was identified after the search went national because he is a felon, convicted of rape and aggravated kidnapping in Tennessee in 1994. Harmon is a tier 3 sex offender, who if he ever gets out of jail would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.