BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
KEOKUK – A compelling day of testimony opened the bench trial of 25-year old Adam McCain Wednesday in South Lee County Court.
McCain, whose was last staying with his grandmother in Fort Madison, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the Feb. 5 slaying of his former lover CaLove Sackman, then 27, of Keokuk. The two have one child together. Sackman was a mother to four.
McCain is accused of stabbing Sackman multiple times, once while in his vehicle in the parking lot of River City Mall around 10:15 p.m Feb. 5. According to testimony Wednesday, Sackman jumped out of the vehicle and tumbled into the parking lot where McCain is alleged to have gotten out, stabbed her again several times, and then got back into his car. As Sackman crawled to the sidewalk on the north side of the mall parking lot, prosecutors say he hit her with the car.
After opening statements Wednesday in which Lee County Attorney Ross Braden painted a picture of malice and intent in McCain’s actions, and Des Moines County Public Defender Kendra Abfalter contended McCain didn’t plan to kill Sackman, about 13 witnesses were produced by the state.
Abfalter described in the incident ‘one impulsive act’.
“For the most part, they made a life together and the relationship ended with very little warning on about Jan. 22, 2019.”
The most damaging testimony came as the first day of evidence was wrapping up when Asst. Lee County Attorney Jonathan Stensvaag played an interview for witness Keokuk Police Detective Steven Dray that took place in the early morning hours of Feb. 6 between McCain and Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations Special Agent Joe Lestina that lasted about 20 minutes. Dray was also in on the interrogation.
At times McCain is inaudible, but he tells Lestina, “I f—ing killed her, dude. She’s gonna feel the pain I felt….she’s not gonna do it again.”
During the audio recording, McCain also tells Lestina who’s doing the questioning, “I coulda (BS’d) you and made the investigation go on and on and on, but I knew what would happen if I made that decision.”
Also called to testify was Sally Sherrill, a family friend considered an “aunt” by Sackman; Sackman’s mother Traci Sackman; Dawn Brownlee, a friend who shared Sackman’s last apartment on Concert Street and spoke to the relationship between McCain and Sackman.
Hailey Malloy testified as she was the night cashier at Casey’s just west of the mall parking lot at the time of the incident. Malloy said she was out salting the sidewalks of the convenience store when she heard screaming from the parking lot.
Malloy testified she didn’t call 911 because “this isn’t a very good part of town and screaming is a nightly occurrence”.
Nadene Sestito testified she was the first person to see Sackman on the ground and drove over to her and called 911. Sestito was on her way to her job at Hy-Vee at about 10:20 when she saw Sackman on the sidewalk under the poles of a green DOT sign on the south side of Main Street.
Sestito said when she got to Sackman she could see blood on the ground and on her.
“Just from what I saw, there were probably 8 to 10 spots of blood on her clothes and then on the ground under her. She was very breathless,” Sestito said.
“She could get maybe one to two syllables out and couldn’t breathe. She started to look straight and she was wasn’t responding to the questions I asked her.”
Stensvaag then played the four-minute 9-1-1 call where Sestito is talking to LeeComm dispatchers and asking questions to Sackman at the same time. Sestito asks Sackman what happened and the woman replied she had been stabbed and Sestito asked by whom, to which Sackman replies “Adam” but the remainder of her comments fade out.
Also called to testify during the morning session were Keokuk Police Captain Brian DePriest and patrol officer Justina Mortimer.
In the afternoon, Lee County EMS paramedic Kaylin Parker and director Bill Young, who also serves as a Lee County Medical Examiner were called to testify, as was forensic pathologist Dr. Dennis Firchau, who conducted the autopsy and determined the cause of death to be sharp force injuries of the trunk (chest area) and determined the manner of death to be homicide.
Brian Percy a business owner and acquaintance of McCain was called to testify and stated that McCain stopped at his house after the incident for help changing a tire.
“He came and knocked on my door and asked if I could help him change a tire,” Percy testified. “He said, ‘I don’t know what to do….I killed her.’,”
Percy said he didn’t believe him and didn’t tell investigators during initial questioning that McCain said he killed her.
“I didn’t believe him. I was like “who?” and he said ‘CaLove’.”
Percy said he went inside to get his coat and when he came out McCain was gone.
Harley Clark, 24, of Argyle, also testified that he saw a white sedan going through town very quickly and ended up following the vehicle and calling 9-1-1 because he witnessed the car rear-end two other vehicles sometime at about 10:45 p.m.
Clark said a friend in his car got out to check on McCain after allegedly striking the other two vehicles, but the white car nearly struck his friend and the two followed McCain’s car and called authorities.
That’s when former Lee County Sheriff’s deputy Joshua Wade picked up the call and spotted the car on Highway 61 just north of Keokuk.
Wade testified that he pulled up on McCain in a white Monte Carlo with a blown front tire. He said McCain seemed coherent and had no slurred speech.
Wade’s body camera footage was then entered into the record as an exhibit.
Braden then called DCI Crime lab specialist Ryan Petruccelli to the stand to talk about DNA evidence pulled from McCain’s pants. Petrucelli said the DNA sample pulled from the pants matched Sackman’s DNA with only a 1 in 1.4 octrillion of error, which is 27 0s.
The prosecution picks up the case again Thursday beginning at 9 a.m.