Defiance, tears open murder trial

September 09, 2003 11:00 pm

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

In a puzzling act of defiance, Robert Wigley told jurors yesterday during the opening of his first-degree murder trial that he isn't seeking their approval or sympathy.

"I don't want anything from you. I don't like you. What do you think about that? How's that for buttering up the jury?" Wigley said in his opening remarks.

Wigley, 37, is on trial in Del Norte County Superior Court for the murder of 18-year-old Camillia Randall in October 1994. Special allegations of rape and torture have also been levelled against Wigley, who is acting as his own attorney.

Wigley faces a second charge of solicitation of murder, which derives from an alleged planned jail escape in 2002. The plan involved the shooting of a bailiff, prosecutors claim.

Most members of the four-man, eight-woman jury showed little reaction during Wigley's opening comments.

At one point, the defendant asked the jury to assess his character. "Compassion — have I got that? Or am I the type of person who rips someone's heart out?"

Randall's heart had been cut out when her body was found.

Although Wigley neglected to say how he would frame his defense yesterday, in earlier court appearances he said he would prove that his ex-wife had murdered Randall.

District Attorney Mike Riese spent most of his opening comments describing Randall. She was an aspiring hippie who trusted others too easily, he said.

Riese also told the jury about the DNA evidence linking Wigley to the teen-ager's murder.

"She is just barely 18 (years old) in 1994," Riese said. "Cammy, as she is known to her friends ... (is) naive, she's young, she's a free spirit. Her goal in Crescent City is simply this: To sleep on the beach."

Riese told the jurors Randall never fulfilled that desire.

"She was tortured. She was stabbed. She was then dumped by the side of the road like someone would dump garbage," Riese said.

Riese began calling witnesses yesterday.

The victim's aunt, Wendy Whiteman of Ashland, Ore., told about the phone call she received from Crescent City that was the last communication Randall had with anyone in her family.

Randall reportedly made one telephone call to Whiteman at 9:05 p.m. on Oct. 26, 1994, the day she left Ashland.

"She told me she was at Denny's in Crescent City. She told me she was going to sleep on the beach that night," Whiteman testified. "She told me if I don't hear from her for a couple days that I should know she was OK. ... That was the last I heard from her."

Whiteman testified that she was angry with her niece when the girl told her she planned to hitchhike alone from Ashland to Guerneville, Calif.

"The last time I saw Camillia she was walking out the door of my flower shop (in Ashland). She was walking out the door and I didn't want to give her any money," Whiteman said. "By giving her money, I felt like I was saying it was OK."

While fighting back tears, Whiteman testified that she gave in and finally gave her niece food money.

"I decided, as she left, I wasn't going to let her go without any money. She was going down the sidewalk ... I can't remember if I gave her $10 or $20. And I watched her walk down the sidewalk until I didn't see her anymore," Whiteman said.

Whiteman appeared more composed and spoke confidently when answering questions from Wigley.

Wigley, who has changed his appearance several times while he has been in custody during the past two years, wore a knee-length white T-shirt in court yesterday. Standing more than 6-feet tall, with a shaved head and a moustache, the defendant made an imposing appearance.

"Was Camillia, was she the type of person where anyone could be her friend?" Wigley asked.

"I wouldn't say anyone. I would say she was very naive." Whiteman responded.

"How about someone who looks like me? Do you think she could be manipulated by someone like me?" Wigley asked.

"Yes, I do," Whiteman responded.

Most of the afternoon was spent with prosecution witness Albert Balliet — a former evidence technician with the Del Norte County Sheriff's Department.

Balliet testified he collected evidence and took photographs at the scene where Randall's body was discovered on Oct. 30, 1994, off Howland Hill Road.

Members of Randall's family wept in court when Riese offered into evidence a parade of autopsy photos. As the jury passed the photos among themselves, one alternate juror could be seen making a concerted effort to block the photos from the family's view after one woman began weeping.

Some jurors shook their heads and grimaced while viewing the photos. One man and one woman on the jury wiped their eyes as they passed the photos along.

Wigley tried to elicit testimony from Balliet about the possibility that Randall's body might have been disturbed by animals, and whether some evidence might have been mishandled during the autopsy. Some of Wigley's questions pertained to whether samples were taken from beneath the victim's fingernails.

Riese objected often to the line of questioning, saying some questions were irrelevant, some were too vague, and the witness wasn't qualified to answer most of the questions.

Most of the objections were sustained by Judge Robert Weir.

Further testimony from Balliet is expected to begin at 9 a.m. today.