By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
ALBUQUERQUE — Jerry Fuller said he felt remorse seconds after setting a car on fire with his aunt and uncle locked inside, and characterized an accused accomplice as a drug pusher who’d “try to cheat you constantly.”
Fuller, serving a 127-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to murder in connection with the deaths of lifetime Portales residents Odis and Doris Newman, testified Thursday in the trial of alleged co-conspirator Stanley Bedford. Bedford, 43, is accused of aiding Fuller in the kidnapping and slayings of the Newmans.
The testimony came on the first day of the trial, following five other witnesses for the prosecution. After more than two hours of testimony, District Attorney Matt Chandler told the court he had additional questions for Fuller, and the testimony will continue today when the trial resumes at Albuquerque District Court.
If convicted, Bedford faces the death penalty. Under his plea agreement, Fuller will also face death row if his testimony is shown to conflict with evidence elsewhere in the trial.
Fuller said he was addicted to methamphetamines in 2005, and bought from several dealers, including Bedford. The two met in late 2004 or early 2005, Fuller said, through Bedford’s brother.
“He was expensive,” Fuller said. “But he always seemed to come up with it when nobody else had it.”
It was on March 1, 2005, Fuller said, he realized he needed cash in a hurry. He had $500 in rent due or he would be evicted along with his girlfriend and her son, and he also had utility bills due and drug debts totaling $150.
Fuller said his bank account was $32 overdrawn and he was unemployed, a fact — along with his methamphetamines habit — he had managed to hide from his girlfriend.
Later that day, Fuller said, he went for a ride with Bedford, and they talked about ways to get money. Fuller said he thought of his aunt and uncle. He hadn’t seen them in years, but he knew they had a nice house and were retired from a successful business.
The pair went into the Newman home on the night of March 2, Fuller said. Bedford struck Odis Newman with a pipe, he said. When Fuller saw the two standing next to each other, he saw blood covering the left side of Odis’ face.
“Odis Newman looked at me,” Fuller said. “There was a moment when he knew who I was. I was in trouble at that point.”
The Newmans were bound with duct tape on their ankles, wrists and mouths, Fuller said.
After unsuccessfully trying to withdraw money from two ATMs, Fuller said he found $900 and another credit card in a wallet he took from Odis Newman. With part of that money, he went to pay off two drug debts.
Bedford stayed with the Newmans, Fuller said.
When Fuller returned, he said Bedford wanted to put the Newmans in the trunk of Doris Newman’s Lincoln. With the Newmans in the trunk, Fuller said he went to Wal-Mart to pick up cleaning supplies and gloves because of fingerprint concerns in the house.
During the drive to Wal-Mart, Fuller said he opened the trunk to check on the Newmans. He said he told them everything would be OK and he was trying to figure things out.
Fuller said he went to Bedford’s house and waited for him to arrive. When Bedford got there, Fuller said he was instructed to get a gas can from the back yard. Bedford already had one in the black Dodge Neon he was driving.
After purchasing gas at a convenience store, the two went to a rural road, Fuller said, and poured gasoline on the Lincoln and set it on fire. Fuller described a big fire that almost burned him, and said he felt instant regret.
“I just suddenly felt that lighting the car fire was a bad idea,” Fuller said. “They could still be alive.”
Fuller confirmed his presence in security videos from Wal-Mart and Allsup’s displayed for the court.
Fuller said he told his girlfriend he did something bad and he was going to commit suicide. He said he ran up a huge drug bill with an intent to overdose on meth, but said he heard police were looking out for him.
Fuller said he waited until police came to his location, and he used a toy gun belonging to his girlfriend’s son. He was shot three times by the Clovis Police SWAT team.
“It was a form of suicide,” Fuller said.