Woman covers ears as court hears 911 call in stabbing trial

Posted Oct. 27, 2009, at 8:56 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Orrington woman who testified that her former husband tried to kill her and her boyfriend 16 months ago covered her ears Tuesday as a recording of her 911 call was played at the request of the defense during her alleged attacker’s jury trial in Penobscot County Superior Court.

The tape was played during the cross-examination of the 38-year-old woman during the second day of testimony in the trial of Ryan Witmer, 33, of Eddington. Witmer is charged with breaking into the home of his estranged wife in the early morning hours of June 29, 2008, and stabbing her and the 42-year-old man she was dating. Witmer then slit his own throat, according to court documents.

Defense attorney Daniel Lilley of Portland asked that the tape be played “to refresh” the woman’s memory because details of her testimony Monday and Tuesday at the trial differed from what she told a detective from the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department about 36 hours after the alleged incident.

“I’d rather not hear the tape,” she told Lilley. “Will it refresh my recollection? I don’t know.”

While she spoke with a female dispatcher, the sound of moaning and heavy breathing could be heard in the background on the recording. The female victim also called a neighbor on another phone and took a call from the person who rented an apartment over the garage while she was on the line with the dispatcher.

“My husband just stabbed himself,” she said on the recording after telling the dispatcher her location. “He just slit his throat. You need to come right now.”

During cross-examination, Lilley asked whether the boyfriend routinely carried a knife or had a knife that night. She answered, “No.”

On the 911 recording, she was heard asking the male victim, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Where is it?”

“What were you referring to?” Lilley asked.

“[His] stab wounds,” she replied.

“You weren’t asking about his knife?” Lilley asked.

“No.”

She explained that she was trying to put pressure on some of the man’s stab wounds as the dispatcher had instructed her.

During the afternoon session, Lilley challenged her recollection of the details of the attack and whether she could actually see what happened from where she said she was standing. Under re-direct, she acknowledged that she never actually saw a knife inflict a wound on her boyfriend’s body. She did say, however, that she saw her ex-husband wielding a knife.

Under cross-examination, Witmer’s ex-wife denied having an affair with the male victim before she asked Witmer for a divorce in May 2008. She also denied that she was planning to ask him for a divorce in April 2008 when the couple put the Orrington house in her name alone and property the couple owned in Surry in Witmer’s name.

She suffered defensive cuts to her forearms, photos entered into evidence Tuesday showed. The male victim suffered 11 stab wounds to the back. A photo of his wounds, which caused one of his lungs to collapse, also was entered into evidence.

A second female juror was dismissed Tuesday without explanation. A woman was dismissed before the trial began Monday afternoon because she is a teacher and had in her class last year one of the children from the female victim’s first marriage.

The male victim is expected to take the stand Wednesday.

The trial is expected to go the jury at the end of the week.

Witmer was indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury on Aug. 8, 2008, on charges of aggravated attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault, burglary, violation of a protective order, domestic violence stalking and assault. Later the same month, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He has been held at the Penobscot County Jail since his arrest the day of the alleged attack.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on the aggravated attempted murder charge and up to 30 years on the elevated aggravated assault and the burglary charges.

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