CEDAR RAPIDS — Philip Bemer testified Wednesday that he wouldn’t forget the sound of his good friend screaming as she was being attacked two years ago.
Bemer was talking to Doris Bevins on the phone when someone started pounding on Bevins’ door. He heard her open the door and then yell, “Get the hell out. Don’t touch me.”
“I heard her scream and ask for help,” Bemer said. “I could hear a gurgling noise and then a (thump). “I was so shook up … but I called 911 and said something was happening.”
Bemer was the first witness in the first-degree murder trial of Jerome Power, 50, who is accused of strangling Bevins, 68, on Sept. 19, 2010.
Police found Bevins unconscious in her apartment with flannel pajama pants tied around her neck. According to the medical examiner’s report, the cause of death was asphyxiation by strangulation.
The prosecution will continue its case at 9 a.m. today in Linn County District Court. Reporter Trish Mehaffey is providing live coverage from the courtroom at www.thegazette.com.
Several Cedar Rapids police officers testified Wednesday about responding to the 911 call.
Officer Sarah Lacina said she was first one on the scene, arriving within 45 seconds of receiving the call. She started knocking on the door and identified herself, she said, but Bevins didn’t reply.
Officer Frank Vozenilek testified that he went around to a side window of the apartment and, through a gap in one of the blinds, saw a body on the floor. He notified the other officers, and one of them used a flashlight to break out a window pane and reached in to unlock the deadbolt. Power was discovered behind the door.
While Power was being handcuffed and removed, Lacina said, she went to attend to the unconscious Bevins. Her nightgown was pulled up over her face, Lacina said, and she didn’t see the flannel pajama pants tied tightly around Bevins’ neck until she attempted to feel her pulse.
Bevins was taken to the hospital but died the next day, Lacina said.
The officers also testified about Power, who is black, claiming he’d seen another black man who escaped through the back door or a window. But the apartment didn’t have a back door, they said, and there was no evidence that any of its windows had been opened for some time.
Retired officer Mark Risse, who was a patrol supervisor at the time, said he also heard Power tell other officers that a “white guy” had assaulted Bevins.
All of the officers were asked if they’d seen any other person that night in the area or coming out of the house. None reported seeing anybody besides Power.
Jason Dunn, Power’s attorney, said in his opening statement that the jurors would find Power innocent once they heard all the evidence — which will include a police interview — and Power’s comments were put into proper context.