A prosecutor told a Superior Court jury Monday that circumstantial evidence will show that Ricky Powell killed his landlord, Herta Bailey, in a 2008 homicide.
Bailey, a 70-year-old Columbus Realtor, was killed on Sept. 29, 2008. Her body, covered in acid, was found in the trunk of her car a day later. Powell is on trial, facing 11 charges including murder, concealing a death and financial transaction fraud.
Assistant District Attorney Crawford Seals told the seven-man, seven-woman jury that the evidence will look like a wheel “with Rickey Powell at the hub.”
Powell’s mug shot then took up the majority of the television screen in front of the jury.
Seals said the spokes of the wheel include:
-- Powell was Bailey’s final appointment at 6 p.m. on the day she died.
-- On the day after Bailey died, her Visa credit card was used to pay five delinquent utility bills totaling more than $2,300 at Knology, Atmos Energy, Columbus Water Works and twice at Georgia Power.
-- After his arrest, Powell led police to Bailey’s Mustang, where her body was found in the trunk.
-- Powell was delinquent in the $1,100-a-month rent he owed on the home that Bailey and her son owned at 5364 Pine Needle Drive, and Bailey had begun the eviction process. Seals called Powell a “deadbeat.”
Powell is being represented by volunteer attorney Robert Wadkins Jr. of Columbus and his father, chief public defender Robert Wadkins.
The younger Wadkins’ opening statement lasted less than two minutes.
“Mr. Seals told you a very good story,” Wadkins Jr. said. “But that is what it is — a good story.”
Wadkins Jr. then pointed out what he claims are the problems with the state’s case.
“He took you right up to where the police had to tie us some loose ends,” Wadkins Jr. said. “The fingerprints, DNA and blood — none of which points to my client, Rickey Powell. You need to focus on what is missing.”
Bailey, born in 1938, grew up in Breslau, Germany, which was under siege by the former Soviet Union during the last days of World War II. In his 20-minute opening statement, Seals started into the history, telling the jury that Bailey was born between “the hammer and anvil.”
Chief Judge John Allen quickly shut that down after defense attorneys objected multiple times.
Bailey married an American soldier and moved to the United States.
“Her American Dream ended very horribly,” Seals said. “She was strangled, murdered and scorched with acid until her skin melted off.”
Seals warned the jurors that the crime-scene photos they will be shown during the trial are gruesome.
“You can live a million years and you might not see anything more violent than Herta Bailey’s skin melting off,” Seals said.
Others who testified in testified in the trial — which is expected to last three days — were Bailey’s daughter, Eileen Oravic; her real estate broker Jack Land of Land Inc.; and Columbus Police detective Drew Tyner.
Oravic and Land testified that they became concerned about Bailey after she missed two appointments on Sept. 30.
“She never missed an appointment,” Oravic said.
Land testified his concern increased when what appeared to be a blood stain was found on the floor in the office that Bailey regularly used.
After investigators arrived they discovered a “blood trail from her office to the front door,” Tyner said.
Near the end of his testimony, the prosecutor asked Tyner if the man in the white shirt at the defense table was Powell.
“He looks very different from the Ricky Powell I last saw,” Tyner said.
The Powell in the courtroom was much thinner than the man in the two-year-old police booking mug.
A month ago Powell, 42, turned down a deal to plead guilty and get a life sentence. If convicted on the murder charge, Powell would not be eligible for parole for at least 30 years.
The trial continues at 9 a.m. today.