Golden – A conversation that took place more than a decade ago between Kenneth H. Botham Jr. and longtime Grand Junction resident Dwain Jackson may have presaged the quadruple murders for which Botham is charged, Jackson testified Wednesday.
Over the protests of Botham’s lawyers, Jackson was allowed to tell the jury that sometime in 1971 he and Botham had discussed how to pull off the perfect crime.
Jackson said that during a lull in their Monday night barbershop quartet practice at the Veterans Administration Hospital, Botham talked about the abandoned bridge over the Gunnison River near Bridgeport, a key location in the crimes Botham is accused of committing.
“Kenneth remarked that it would be a good place to dispose of bodies, and I added that if you did, it would be a good idea to weigh them down,” said Jackson.
Both Jackson and Botham were baritones in the group.
Jackson said the technique came to mind from an article he had read in Time magazine about a murder in Alabama.
“Kenneth then asked me what I’d tie them down with and I said wire and weights. Yes, specifically, wire and weights,” said Jackson.
The bodies of Patricia Botham, 25, her neighbor Linda Miracle, 25, and Miracle’s two sons, Troy, 5, and Chad, 3, were found in the Gunnison River tied down with weights and wire. Kenneth Botham was found guilty of the murders in 1976, but then was granted a retrial last summer when the Colorado Supreme Court overturned his conviction. Wednesday was the third day of testimony of that retrial in Golden District Court.
Jackson’s testimony was strongly protested by one of Botham’s attorneys, Lee Foreman. With both Jackson and the jury sent out by the judge, Foreman asked Judge Winston Wolvington for a mistrial.
“This witness has put my client’s entire character in question, opening a pandora’s box of speculation with statements that are highly prejudicial and just unfair,” said Foreman.
Wolvington denied Foreman’s objections, but prevented assistant prosecutor Jerry Jorgensen from further questioning Jackson. In Botham’s previous trial, Jackson had testified that Botham had dilated eyes during their conversation. That testimony became part of Botham’s legal challenge for a retrial.
Wednesday’s presentation by the prosecution started slowly, with a geography lesson by Mesa County Sheriff’s Investigator Mike Smith. Smith had retraced Botham’s trip to Ouray Aug. 22, 1975, the following October, finding it took 2 hours to cover the 100 miles.
The jury grew attentive when Norman Wilhelm detailed his dinner date with Linda Miracle the evening of her disappearance. “I wasn’t drunk or anything. She wasn’t drunk. She was high. I was high. We just had a good time,” said Wilhelm.
Wilhelm had been dating Linda Miracle in the summer of 1975. They had dinner at Linda’s home at 1914 Ouray Ave., finishing off most of a quart bottle of pink chablis.
Wilhelm testified that he left Linda’s home at 11:30 p.m. because he was unusually tired that evening. But upon returning to his own home he stayed up alone past 2 a.m. listening to the stereo.
That contradiction, along with the fact that Wilhelm had given Linda Miracle money to have an abortion for what he thought was his child, was repeatedly drawn out by Foreman.
Wilhelm left the courtroom shaken by Foreman’s cross-examination, walked quickly to the water cooler and lit a cigarette.
“I don’t want to say anything,” he told The Daily Sentinel, “I just know he’s guilty, that’s all.”
Two neighbors of Botham, Mike Larson and Marjie McConnell, said they heard screams from the Botham home late Friday night, Aug. 22, 1975. While Cora Heiner, 89, said her now minimal vision and hearing were good enough then to see a tall thin man drive up to the Miracle house also late that night.
Foreman worked hard to discredit Heiner’s word, pointing out that even then she had cataracts and glaucoma, for which an eye doctor had given her medicine she wasn’t taking.
But Jorgenson said he thought Heiner’s testimony held up well and added to the key part of his case.
“We now have several witnesses saying these people were killed about 1:30 a.m. by a tall slender guy with a square-back vehicle,” said Jorgenson.
Wednesday’s witnesses also included detectives James Fromm and Douglas Rushing. Defense lawyer Foreman pressed both law officers about the efficiency of their investigations into the crime. Rushing, in particular, admitted he was inexperienced and probably erred in trying to “talk to too many people too fast.”
‘You often don’t know what to look for, or what to remember in a person’s statement, until later,” said Rushing.
But Jackson’s testimony late in the day is what would stick the most in the jury’s minds Wednesday night, predicted Jorgenson.
“That’s one of the things you do,” he said. “Give the jurors one big thing to think about overnight.”
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