LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Testimony in the jury trial for the 24-year-old Lufkin woman accused of stabbing her husband to death with a steak knife during a November 2013 domestic dispute over text messages on the man’s phone got under way Monday morning.
Aspioun Le’Erica Jones appeared in Judge Barry Bryan’s 217th Judicial District Court. She is accused of the stabbing death of Javoras Durham, 26, which occurred at the Pershing Place Apartments on Nov. 25, 2013.
According to the probable cause documents filed by Lufkin Police Department, Durham and Jones were arguing over several text messages in Jones' phone.
According to a witness who was in the apartment with the two at the time, the argument over the text messages got very heated. The witness said she overheard Jones tell Durham that she wanted to leave, and that's when Durham stood in the doorway. After that, the witness said that Jones went to the kitchen and retrieved a knife.
The witness went on to tell detectives that she turned away for a second, and when she turned back around, Durham was stabbed in the chest area.
The witness then said that after he was stabbed, Durham punched Jones in the face. Even after he was stabbed, Durham was still fighting and trying to gain control, the witness told police.
After questioning the witness, police then questioned Jones, who confirmed that the two were arguing over text messages. Jones told police while the two were arguing, Durham began spitting in her face.
Jones stated that after she told Durham she needed to leave, he pushed her down on the bed, injuring her back. Jones said Durham then punched her in the face, knocking her down on the couch. In addition, Jones said Durham stuck his fingers into her mouth.
According to Jones, she then entered the kitchen and grabbed a knife. Jones said she went back into the living room, and Durham walked towards her, scaring her. Jones said she then made slashing movements towards Durham and that she was not aiming for any particular area of his body and hit his chest.
Both the witness and Jones both told police that they tried CPR several minutes until authorities arrived.
After hearing the charge against her, Jones pleaded not guilty.
In his opening arguments, prosecuting attorney Elmer Beckworth told the jury that they would be presented evidence that showed Jones was assaulted by Durham, but that even though there was an assault, it was not enough to use deadly force.
Defense attorney John Tunnel said that during the assault that lead to her stabbing Durham, Jones tried to leave to make an appointment she had. Tunnel said that Durham would not let her leave and took her into a closed room and hit her multiple times. Tunnel also said that Durham tried to choke Jones with his fingers. Tunnel said that after that she grabbed a steak knife and told him to get back. Tunnel said that after Jones stabbed him, she did try to give him CPR.
"I believe what happened on Nov. 25, 2013 was a tragedy," Tunnel said. "I do believe that Jones acted in self defense and was fearful for her life."
The first witness to take the stand in the trial was Christy Estevez. Estevez was a crime scene investigator on the incident.
“I was on dispatch helping with training,” Estevez said. “I was called out to respond to the location after I trained Christian Hooper.”
Estevez said that she arrived on a scene that was secured and began taking photographs. Beckworth had Estevez show photographs where you could see Durham’s body laying near the entrance of the apartments. Jurors could also see a blood stain on the floor. Another photo was shown of the sink in the apartment. The alleged knife that was used in the incident could be seen in the sink.
Family members and supporters of Durham held back tears as the pictures of the bloody knife and Durham’s body were shown.
Estevez said that she did not take any photos of Jones.
“She was on the porch when I arrived,” Estevez said. “I then went inside. I did not make contact with her.”
Estevez said another crime scene investigator handled Jones. Hooper was then questioned. Hooper said she had been with the department for only a week.
“This was the first big call I took,” Hooper said. “There were two women on the call. At first it was just an altercation. I heard that Jones had been hit. I dispatched an ambulance thinking she was the victim. It took a minute and a half for me to hear anything about a stabbing.”
After Hooper was dismissed, Levi Cole, a paramedic with the Lufkin Fire Department, was then questioned.
“I arrived and found [Durham] laying on his back near the entrance,” Cole said. “He had no pulse and was not breathing.”
After Cole testified, Beckworth questioned Lufkin officer Blake Witherspoon. Witherspoon said he discovered the knife in the sink, and to his knowledge, it had not been handled by anyone at the scene other than him and the crime scene team. The LPD officer said that once he found the knife he began taking pictures until the crime scene unit arrived.
"I took 42 pictures," Witherspoon said.
Witherspoon then described the pictures he took. Most of the pictures shown were of the condition of the house. Witherspoon took several pictures of the blood stain on the floor. Witherspoon also took a picture of the puncture wound on Durham's chest.
Witherspoon also said he had a recording camera attached to his body.
"We were testing cameras that month to see if we were going to buy them," Witherspoon said. "There is a latch and you move it, it opens the camera and begins recording."
Witherspoon said he has not seen the video recently, because it was taken off of the camera and put on a computer.
Tunnel asked when the last time Witherspoon saw the video.
"Nov. 25, 2013," Witherspoon said. "The day I shot it I had to bring it back and upload it onto the computer system."
Witherspoon agreed with Tunnel's statement that if a person is strangled that it could cause serious injury or death.
Sylvia Spikes took the stand next. Spikes said she knew Jones for about 3 years, and she recounted the events of Nov. 25, 2013.
It was me, Aspioun, Javarous, and their two little girls inside," Spikes said.
Spikes said when she got back home to the apartment, Durham came outside and was upset. Spikes said there was an argument over text messages.
"The argument started in the bedroom," Spikes said.
The argument moved to the living area, Spikes told the jurors.
"He pulled her off of her feet," Spikes said. "He put her thumbs in her mouth. I went up to him and said, 'Jay, what are you doing? He said, 'She banging on me, she's banging on me.' I said, 'Jay, you have your thumbs in her mouth.' He let her up."
Pikes said the argument continued, and Jones tried to leave but Durham kept touching her and putting his hands on her.
"She was crying and emotional," Spikes said. "She had enough; she didn't want to be touched anymore."
Spikes said Jones' emotions changed abruptly during the argument.
"She snapped," Spikes said. "Her eyes got all big. I said, 'Just let her go to her room.' He wasn't having any of that."
Spikes said after Jones was not allowed to leave, she went to the kitchen.
"She used it as a scare tactic," Spikes said.
Spikes said Durham went into the kitchen towards her.
"She kept saying, 'Quit touching me, Jay. Stop grabbing me,'" Spikes said. "By the time I came in there, he was stabbed. He yelled, 'You stabbed me in the heart.'"
Spikes said that before the stabbing, she did not see Durham hit Jones.
"He didn't hit her," Spikes said. "He just kept touching her. To me, if someone says, 'Stop touching me,' then they need to stop."
Spikes said that after Jones stabbed Durham, he lunged at his girlfriend.
"He beat her," Spikes said. "He kept hitting her."
Spikes said after they got Durham to stop hitting her, she took the children to a friend's house. Spikes said it was only a few minutes, and when she got back, she and Jones and tried to get Durham out of the apartment and to the hospital.
Spikes said that after they could not get Durham to the truck to take him to the hospital, they took him back inside, and Jones called 911.
"She told her that her and her husband got into an argument," Spikes said. "[I heard her say], I think he stabbed himself."
Beckworth asked Spikes if that was true.
"I can't say," Spikes said. "My back was turned."
Tunnel asked Spikes about the relationship between Jones and Durham.
Spikes said Jones would come to work, and on multiple occasions, bruises were very visible on Jones.
Spikes told Tunnel that on Nov. 25, Durham came to her and asked her about some text messages. Spikes told Tunnel she never remembered saying that she felt like Durham was threatening her life.
Spikes agreed with Tunnel that things can happen very quickly in confusing situations.
While the initial struggle was going on in the living room, she was in the same room but with her back turned, she said.
Spikes said she turned around when she saw Durham sticking his fingers down Jones' throat.
"It sounded like he was choking her," Spikes said. "When you have thumbs down your mouth, it's hard to talk. I'm sure all she could do was try to scream and make noise."
Spikes told Tunnel she has been choked before, and it doesn't take long for you to begin to worry.
"I went over there and told him to get up off her," Spikes said. "I knew it wasn't right."
Spikes then said after this happened, Jones tried to leave.
"She tried to leave," Spikes said. "She tried to leave a couple of times, but he wouldn't let her."
Spikes also said that Jones tried to leave several times before Durham choked her.
Tunnel asked if it was true that Jones only went and got the knife after the altercation.
"Yes," Spikes said. "He wouldn't stop touching her and grabbing her."
Spikes said that the knife didn't scare Durham, and he kept going towards Jones. The witness said she saw Jones grab the knife after she was already bleeding and being choked.
Spikes then moved onto when she and Jones were trying to give Durham CPR.
"That includes her," Spikes said. "She was trying her best."
Sikes said they tried to take Durham's shirt off to help.