Trial: Man forced daughter to help dismember mom - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Trial: Man forced daughter to help dismember mom

(WMC-TV) - Action News 5 is blogging the trial of James Hawkins, a Memphis man charged with first degree murder in the death of his live-in girlfriend, Charlene Gaither.

Hawkins is accused of killing Gaither.   After the murder, Hawkins admitted to police that he cut of Gaither's hands, head and feet, before dumping her torso in a secluded area, and other body parts in another location.

Hawkins allegedly forced his daughter, who was 12-years-old at the time, to help him dismember her mother's body.

Hawkins defense is arguing that his daughter killed her mother, and then he helped her cover it up.

Hawkins tried to plead guilty to dismembering the corpse, and filing a false report, but the judge would not consider his pleas, since he said they should have been entered before the jury was sworn in.

Judge Chris Craft said on the first day of the testimony that becasue the jury has already heard the charges, it would prejudice them.

Refresh this page throughout the day for live updates from the trial.

10:52 AM - Hawkins is ready. He is back in the courtroom. Court is in session. The issue that resulted in the recess has been resolved. Nichols was simply missing a page in her copy of the slide.

The judge calls for the jury.

10:50 AM - The judge calls court back to order. Then he waits.

"We'll wait just a second. 'Til Mr. Hawkins is ready."

Silence in the room. Court not in session.

10:48 AM - Prosecutor Jennifer Nichols asks Scales "What is DNA?"

He asks her if she want to get into the power point that was prepared. She indicates that she will later on, but needs him to explain DNA first. HE explains. In long format, he basically says that DNA determines hair color, eye color, everything about a person. It's encoded in the DNA.

February 2008, he received a sample of DNA from a Jane Doe victim and a sample from the alleged mom to see if she was or was not the mom of the Jane Doe victim. Nichols hands Scales a packet. He acknowledges it as a power point he prepared for prosecutors to explain what it is he does. It is entered in as an exhibit. He says showing the presentation will help the jury understand. Scales also prepared a large posterboard that helps explain. It's another exhibit. The poster will come into play at some point during his power point presentation. The power point is up on the screen.

First slide -- DNA

Second slide -- human cell with mitochondria, cell membrane, and the nucleus that contains DNA.

3rd slide -- Inside nucleus. Wound up very tightly, the DNA. Letters of the genetic code. We use 26 letters int he alphabet. The genetic code uses only 4 letter. The way those 4 letters are arranged determines the proteins that creates hair color, muscle tone, etc., etc. Everything is contained int he sequence of letters. DNA is in hair, saliva, muscle tissue, bone. If it has a nucleus, it has DNA, whicha came half from mom and half from dad.

4th slide -- 23 chromosones came from mom and her egg. 23 from dad and his sperm.

Scales tries to move on to the next slide.

Out of the blue, Nichols interrupts and asks to take a short recess. The judge honors hte request and sends the jury out of the room. Nichols says she wants to take a recess first, but when they come back, she has a question for the witness.

Now, Nichols and the defense attorney are conferring with the witness together. They speak in whispers at the witness stand. The issue is not yet for public cosumption. It appears to have been resolved. Nichols needs to swap one slide for another. Nichols and defense attorney Nance are back in discussion with Nichols. It's resolved. They will make a substitution.

Recess resumes.

10:37 AM - State calls Dr. Roy Scales to the witness stand. Barbara's husband. He is the director and co-owner of Scales BioLab's in Brandon, MS. Levity. Levity. Scales say he identifies himself as co-owner because of his wife, with whom he just crossed paths.

"In other words, she's your boss?" Craft quips.

"Yessir," Scales responds with a smile.

Scales explains his education and credentials. He moved to Brandon and opened his lab in 1977. He says he is a forensic analyst. He says he's an old-timer. Started doing DNA in 1988 when the courts first started using it. He says he was a member of the first program that did DNA testing based on parentage. He says his lab is accredited for parentage testing for for decades. Scales says he's a member of national committees that wrote standards for otehr labs to achieve accreditation. Scales say he has been tendered as an expert in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, federal court, many times, hundreds of times. The state enters him as an expert witness in forensic analysis, meaning he is allowed to give his opinion while testifying. The judge explains what that means to the jury.

10:30 AM - Prosecutors call Barbara Scales to the witness stand. She is the co-owner of Scales BioLab in Brandon, Mississippi. Her husband is the other co-owner. She's taken over administration of the business though she is a scientist who did a lot of lab work. She has been with Scales BioLab for 22 years of its 34 year existence.

Scales got a call from Commander Mark Blackson regarding unidetified remains in DeSoto County. She went to the crime lab and picked up a sample from teh remains. She saw Investigator Pate while there. Scales says she Pate gave her samples from Geraldine Earvin, who is the mother of the alleged victim. She took samples of blood and muscle tissue from the left eye from Doctor Hayne (sp?) at the crime lab. She drove them back to Scales. She got possession at 6:07 pm from PAte and from Hayne at 6:15 pm. As soon as she got back to Scales BioLabs, her husband began working on them immediately.

Prosecutor Jennifer Nichols hands Scales a document. She says she recognizes it. Forensic evidence submission. Another Document. The chain of custody documentation regarding the buckle samples. Third document, about the samples she got from Doctor Hayne. Indicates the evidence was logged in. Scales husband began working on it immediately. They try to ID victims quickly to be compassionate to families. It got priority and jumped over other cases.

Scales is released from the witness stand with no further questions from either side.

10:22 AM - Back to testimony. Olive says Guy did not seem concerned when Olive told her that Gaither was missing. Olive says Guy originally laughed at the notion of a missing persons report. That was on February 13th. Olive says she called back on February 14th. Guy did not seem overly concerned. Olive says Guy was not concerned until she called Olive on the 15th after she had heard that a body was discovered in Desoto County. Cross-examination is over.

On re-direct, Olive tells prosecutors that Guy was always cooperative and very forthcoming with information. Olive says Guy called her back early, at 8:30 am.

No further questions. Olive is released fromt he stand.

10:18 AM - Defense attorneys cross examine. Olive says Hawkins gave her the name "Cynthia Guy or Thompson or something like that." That was Caither's sister. Olive tracked down a number and called her. Defense attorney's ask what Guy's response was when Olive valled her. Prosecutors object to hearsay. Craft calls both sides to the bench for a private bench conference.

10:15 AM - The jury is back in the courtroom. The judge welcomes the jury. They acknowledge wearing out the courtroom deputies on their day off and being well fed. It's a light moment in the courtroom.

The state calls Barbara Olive to the witness stand. Olive is a retired Memphis Police Officer. Retired January 15, 2011. Was a cop for 28 years. WOrked in all different areas of MPD. February 13, 2008 she worked in the Missing Persons Bureau. Handled runawaya and missing adults where there is no obvious sign that a crime has occurred. Prosecutor Marianne Bell questions Olice. Olive was assigned the missing persons case of CHarlene Gaither. Olice says she read the case and reviewed it, including a report taken by an Officer Houston. SHe reviewed the report. James Hawkins had filed the missing persons report. Olive called Hawkins. They talked regarding the case. Olive says she identified herself and told himwhy she was calling. Hawkins told her he had not heard from or spoken to Gaither. She asked for other contact information for friends or family. Hawkins told her she didn't have any friends and she had family but he couldn't remember their names. After several more minutes of conversation, Hawkins eventually provided names of family members. Olive worked in MPD's MPB for 7 years. Olive says Hawkins did not seem concerned. He seemed disinterested. She says there may be other unknown factors, like people may not like police so they don't always cooperate. Olive says Hawkins provided some names of Gaither family members. She found a report in MPD's system that listed Gaither's mother's name and phone number. She called and spoke to one of Gaither's sisters.

February 14, 2008, Olive talked to family members again. Nothing changed. They had not heard from her.

February 15, 2008, she got a call from a family member. She was advised that a body had been found in Mississippi. Olive called DeSoto County and talked to Commander Blackson. Olive gave Blackson some information. Blackson advised that their victim could be Gaither. DeSoto County had been given the name James Thomas listed as a suspect. Olive had found that name preciously. She suspected that Hawkins and Thomas were the same person. Olive then spoke to the family members again. Family members confrimed Hawkins and Thomas were the same person. Olive advised her supervisor. Then homicide took over and it was transferered to them. Prosecutors finished. Pass the witness.

9:58 AM - Judge Chris Craft calls for the jury. Trial will resume within moments.

9:55 AM - Hawkins is in the courtroom. Court is in session, though trial has not resumed.

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