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A look back at the Wesley Earnest trial

December 04, 2012|Tim Saunders and WDBJ Staff

AMHERST, Va. — The jury is now deliberating the case. 

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Closing arguments are now underway in the Wesley Earnest case.

DAY NINE: November 19, 2010

Testimony ended Friday morning with the conclusion of the defense case and a surprising revelation from Earnest, who claims he entered his wife's house before her death without her permission.

The admission came as Earnest re-took the stand for cross-examination.  Prosecutors asked Earnest about a time in 2006 when he entered Jocelyn Earnest's Pine Bluff home uninvited.  Wesley admitted to climbing in through a window.  At this point, Jocelyn had changed the locks on her home and Wesley was unable to gain entry through a doorway.  While in the home, prosecutors asked Earnest if he wrote on a "timeline," to which Earnest did not recall.

The timeline in question was explained during subsequent testimony.  Susan Roark, Jocelyn Earnest's counselor at the time of her death, was called back to the stand.  Roark explained that the timeline was a task she asked Earnest to complete as a therapeutic exercise.  Prosecutors showed Roark a scroll of paper, which she identified as the timeline.  Roark explained that in August, 2007 Jocelyn came to her office "emotionally angry, violated, and scared" after finding that someone had written on her timeline.

A forensic handwriting expert was then called to the stand.  Gordon Menzies testified about analyzing the timeline.  Menzies says he was able to identify the handwriting of both Jocelyn and Wesley Earnest on the timeline.  Among the entries he attributes to Wesley Earnest:

- "1996: Kept telling Wes to sleep with someone else and come home to me."
- "1997: Kept telling Wes I don't want to be with you sexually."
- "1998: (It's ok, Wes took care of me as always)
- "2001: Very understanding husband with me spending late hours at work."
- "2005: Wes kept trying to talk to me, but I just kept shutting him out."
- "2006: We wants another chance to make it work but finds it highly unlikely because Jocelyn's family has too much influence and never fully embraced Wes and Wes' mother was left out of the loop."

The testimony, including the timeline entries, were all read in front of the jury.  Outside the jury's presence, prosecutors contended that Wesley broke into Jocelyn's house and assumed her identity to write on her timeline.

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A potentially game-changing witness has taken the stand to open day eight of the Wesley Earnest murder trial in Amherst.

DAY EIGHT: November 18, 2010

Wayne Stewart was working at a Taco Bell in Chesapeake on the night of December 19, 2007; the day prosecutors say Jocelyn Earnest died.

Stewart testified Thursday that he saw Wesley Earnest come through his drive through window around 6:30 p.m. on December 19.  Stewart says Earnest ordered a "Grande" meal of 10 tacos.  He remembers Earnest being in a hurry to leave and says "He had longer hair back then.  That's how I remember him."  Stewart did not testify during Earnest's original murder trial in the spring of 2010.

Defense attorneys showed Stewart a handwritten statement Thursday and asked him to describe it.  Stewart says that about a week after December 19, Earnest returned to the Taco Bell and asked Stewart to make a statement that verified Earnest was at the Taco Bell on the night in question.  The statement was written by Stewart's manager, who was not present in court Thursday.  Stewart says that he dictated a statement to the manager, which she wrote down for him.  Both Stewart and the manager signed the document.  The manager was not working on December 19.

Stewart shared a portion of the statement on the witness stand.  It read "To whom it may concern: Wesley Earnest was (at the Taco Bell) on December 19 around 6:30 and ordered a Grande meal."

Prosecutors asked Stewart if he could say for sure which day Earnest came in the Taco Bell.  Stewart says he doesn't remember now, but that his memory was clear in December 2007.  Commonwealth's Attorney Randy Krantz brought up an interview Stewart had with law enforcement in March 2008, in which Stewart told investigators that he wished he had not signed Earnest's document.

"I thought I was helping him out." Stewart testified.  "I thought he was losing his job or something.  I didn't know it was anything like this."  Stewart said he was not trying to mislead anyone.  He just wanted "police" to know what he saw.

Wesley Earnest takes the stand in his own defense

In keeping with his previous trial, Wesley Earnest was called to the witness stand by the defense Thursday.

At one point, he was asked directly by his attorney, Joey Sanzone, whether he murdered his wife.  Earnest said he did not.  Following his visit to Taco Bell on December 19, 2007, Earnest says he went home and packed furniture for an upcoming move. 

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