CEDAR RAPIDS – Murder suspect Jerome Power said DNA tests prove he didn’t touch the neighbor he is accused of killing last fall, and said he may have seen the real killer.
Power, 48, of Cedar Rapids, is accused of strangling to death his 68-year-old downstairs neighbor, Doris Bevins, on Sept. 19, 2010 inside her apartment on Fifth Avenue SE. In a 35-minute jailhouse interview Thursday, Power recounted his version of the events that evening, and said he will take his story to the grave.
Power mailed two pages of a DNA examination done by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to SourceMedia Group. In part, it states no blood was found on or under Power’s fingernails.
Upon reviewing the document, DCI spokeswoman Courtney Greene said it was not complete and said the DCI could not verify that it was authentic. Cedar Rapids police and Linn County Jerry Vander Sanden declined to comment.
In a handwritten letter mailed with the document, Power said Bevins was a “good friend…who never bothered no one.”
“Who did this crime needs help, and they or whom need to come forward so that an innocent man (me) will not be punished for something I could never stomach to do,” Power wrote.
Around 10 p.m. that Sunday night, Power said he went to Cigarette Outlet and bought a 24-ounce can of Earthquake malt liquor. He was back the apartment house by around 10:35 p.m., sitting on the steps drinking and smoking a cigarette when he heard the back gate squeak.
It was Doris Bevins.
“She said ‘If you have time, my air mattress is losing air,’ and ‘could you help me?’” Power said. “She said if not, that’s OK, and that she would just ask a friend. I said I’d be down in a little bit.”
Power said he went up the steps to his second-floor unit, laid out clothes on his bed and set his alarm clock, because he needed to be at Kirkwood Community College early the next morning. Around 11:15 p.m., he said he came down the outside steps and saw a man come around the corner, as if he had just left Bevins’ apartment.
The man, who was black and wearing a Chicago Bulls cap and a black jacket, was carrying a Styrofoam plate with something covered on it, Power said. The man was walking fast with his head down, and went around the back side of the house.
Power said he had never seen the man before.
“He just kept walking, and I didn’t think much of it,” Power said.
As Power got closer to Bevins’ door, he found a cell phone on the ground. He picked it up and looked back around the corner, thinking the man he had seen dropped it, but the man was gone.
Power said he went back to Bevins’ door and found it cracked open a couple inches. He said he and Bevins had a “cordial friendship” and he often picked up cigarettes and other items for her.
“Me and Doris was so cool, I could knock on her door and just walk in,” Power said. “I knocked a couple times and said, ‘Doris, Doris, it’s me, J.J.’ She didn’t answer, so I went in, and her TV was up real loud. I was looking by the door for the air pump, and that’s when I looked up and saw her.”
Power said Bevins was lying face up on the floor and her face was “all bloody.” Flannel pants were wrapped around her neck, he said.
Power said he jumped back when he saw the scene. He said he had been inside for less than 10 seconds when police busted inside, grabbed him and held him up against a wall.
The officers were sent to Bevins’ apartment after a man who had been on the phone with her heard Bevins scream and drop the phone. Police found Bevins’ front door locked but an officer who looked through a window saw Bevins lying on the floor.
When police broke a pane of glass on the door to enter, they found Power hiding behind the entry door, according to a police report.
Bevins was found by police unconscious with flannel pants wrapped around her neck. She died the next day at the hospital. Linn County Medical Examiner Don Linder said the cause of death was asphyxiation by strangulation.
Power said his “assumption” is that the man he saw was the person who strangled Bevins. He said he immediately told police about the man he saw, but they never focused on any other suspects but him.
In the 40 minutes between the time Power first saw Bevins and when he went to her apartment, Power said he didn’t hear anything unusual, but said his girlfriend had the TV on.
Power acknowledged his presence at the murder scene hurts his case, and said Bevins’ sometimes complained that he and his girlfriend were being too loud.
“People sometimes have disputes,” Power said. “There were a couple times where she asked if we could keep it down. That kind of goes with the neighborhood.”
When asked if he locked Bevins’ door when he went inside her apartment, Power said the door either locked automatically when he closed it, or it was a “forced habit, because our landlord always tells us to lock our doors.”
Power also said he has a “trump card” that will further prove his innocence, but said he could not share it with a reporter Thursday. He insisted he did not kill Bevins, who he said kept an eye out for crime in the neighborhood.
“We got along fine, and that’s why I can’t understand why they think I would kill her,” Power said.
Online court records show a lengthy criminal record for Power. A jury convicted him of first-degree robbery in 1994 after he robbed a woman at knife-point in Waterloo. It was his second felony, after a conviction for second-degree burglary in 1988.
Power has spent much of the last 25 years incarcerated, according his record from the Iowa Department of Corrections.
Power remains in the Linn County Jail on a $1 million bond. His first-degree murder trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 12 in Linn County District Court.