The man accused of stabbing his wife to death as their children waited outside her Lakebottom-area apartment testified Monday that he and Ciara Ingram had no argument on June 2, 2012.
That’s the day Columbus police believe Jarod Ingram stabbed her three times in the neck in an upstairs bedroom in Apt. 206 of The Village on Cherokee, 3113 Cherokee Ave.
The couple’s two children, a boy who was 8 and a girl who was 6 when their mother was slain, earlier testified to what they recalled from waiting outside. The boy, now 13, said he heard screams and laughter coming from inside.
The girl, now 12, told the court she twice peered through a mail slot into the apartment, the second time seeing her father with his shirt off, a white bottle of cleaner nearby. He saw her and gestured for her to go away, she said.
Police said they found a white bottle of bleach near Ciara Ingram’s body, and bleach was poured on her and in other spots around the home, including a cloth in the kitchen, where a butcher knife with her blood on it was in the sink.
The last visit
Ciara Ingramwas about to move to Indiana, where she grew up. Her apartment was cluttered with boxes and items she planned to pack.
Ingram testified he brought the kids there to tell their mother goodbye, as they were to spend their summer with him while they were out of school. School had ended in mid-May, and in the fall they were to join their mother in Indiana and go to school there.
Married in 2003, the couple had separated in 2006, and after battles over divorce and custody came to a final settlement in 2009. Ingram said that in 2010 they came to an agreement to “coparent,” dividing their duties so that when the kids were in school and living with their mother, he could babysit them while she worked.
She gave him a key to the apartment so he could come and go as needed. He was living with roommates in a house on April Lane in Harris County.
Though he and his ex had a tumultuous marriage, they got along well afterward as they shared in caring for the children, he said.
The day he brought the kids to tell her goodbye, he had just got a day job at Publix to supplement income from doing kitchen maintenance each night at Cracker Barrel. Previously he’d had a job with a Fort Benning contractor, but the vendor lost that contract in 2011, he said.
He’d been in orientation at the Bradley Park Drive Publix from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. before taking the children to their mother’s apartment around 4 p.m.
They had a pleasant visit, he said.
“She was really excited to see the kids,” he said. The children ran upstairs to play as he helped Ciara pack, and loaded some of the kids’ stuff into his car.
“We talked about life,” he said of their conversation. She asked him to move to Indiana, to continue helping with the children’s care, and he was considering that, he said.
Defense attorney Mike Reynolds asked whether they had an argument.
“Not that day,” he said.
In other testimony Monday, he said Ciara had been susceptible to “explosive anger” during their marriage, which he described as a cycle of “screaming, arguing, sobbing, crying, back to normal.”
Their encounter in June 2012 involved no such drama, he said: “June 2 was an uneventful day for us. Nothing really happened.”
Later he added, “We didn’t get into an argument, which was wonderful. The kids got to see their mother, which was wonderful.”
Ciara had an older son, then age 10, who wasn’t Ingram’s child. Ciara’s mother already had taken him to Indiana. They called him on her cell phone, and passed it around so others could speak to him.
The children testified they waited for what seemed a long time after their father told them to go to the car, so they got out to play. Ingram said he had borrowed the car, a 1989 Buick Century, and its air-conditioner didn’t work well, so the kids weren’t comfortable in it on a June day.
They were outside as he came and went from the apartment, loading a bicycle and other things the children would need, he said.
Then it came time to go, and Ciara told them goodbye, he said: “We hugged. She came down to the front door, saw us off, waved.”
Six days later
On the afternoon of June 8, 2012, property managers at the Cherokee Avenue apartment complex were to conduct a final inspection of Apt. 206, before Ciara Ingram moved out.
The first thing they discovered was the apartment’s air conditioner had frozen and locked. They noticed an odd smell, but thought that might be a clogged toilet on the ground floor. Finding the body, they called 911.
When emergency medical services summoned police at 2:25 p.m., officers walked into a chaotic scene.
They found the air conditioner thermostat was turned down all the way; furniture cushions had been slashed with a blade; cabinets were open and drawers were pulled out, and cleaning products were left on the kitchen floor.
Upstairs in the bedroom, they found Ciara Ingram’s body by a pool of blood, a white bottle of Clorox bleach and its blue lid nearby.
Some bleach had been poured on the body, some on the arm of a sofa downstairs, and some on a green cloth by the kitchen sink, in which lay the butcher knife.
On the floor downstairs, police found her Verizon cell phone, which she had not used since the evening her ex-husband picked up his kids. The phone’s screen had Jarod Ingram’s left thumbprint on it.
The day police found the body, Ingram got a call from his mother, telling him the coroner was at Ciara’s. Reports already were on the TV news. He took the kids into his room, told them he loved them, and said a prayer, he said.
The police called, and told him they were sending a counselor for the kids. Ingram later stepped outside to smoke, saw a female officer walking toward him, and greeted her. She froze.
From his side came a male police officer, with a gun pointed at him, followed by more, some in body armor with shotguns. They handcuffed him, cleared the house, put the kids in a van and had a patrol car take him to jail.
He was released the next day, and then formally charged with murder July 1. Ciara’s mother took custody of the children, in Indiana. He spent 15 months and 16 days in jail before he could bond out. It wiped out his savings.
Prosecutor Wesley Lambertus grilled Ingram about owing $12,600 in back child support, for which Ciara was taking him to court.
Ingram said he had paid some of the $550 monthly child support, but did not have check stubs to prove it, having changed banks. Also he paid some in cash, and he was unjustly being held responsible for months when he and Ciara lived together, with the arrangement that she would pay no rent and he would pay no child support, he said.
He said he was surprised she would “retroactively attack” over that, taking him to court instead of working it out.
He denied having ever threatened or abused his wife, or having been angry she was moving. Her relocating was no surprise, and he also was considering moving north to be closer to the kids, he said.
Ingram is being tried on charges of malice or deliberate murder, felony murder for killing someone in the commission of a felony, aggravated assault and using a knife to commit a crime.
The trial resumes Tuesday in Judge Arthur Smith III’s court.