By Kevin Wilson, Freedom Newspapers
ALBUQUERQUE — Prosecution and defense attorneys agreed Monday that prosecution witness Cynthia Peninger was threatened about revealing what she knew about the 2005 deaths of Doris and Odis Newman.
They disagreed on who was doing the threatening.
The prosecution said it was capital murder defendant Stanley Bedford who threatened Peninger. The defense said it was a state police investigator who tried to intimidate Bedford’s former roommate.
Peninger was arrested in March 2005 with Bedford and boyfriend Archie Crawford for possession of stolen property.
While answering questions Monday from District Attorney Matt Chandler in Albuquerque’s District Court, Peninger cried when she spoke of a conversation she overheard in her house. While she was in the kitchen, she said Bedford talked about a tussle with an old man.
She believes that man was Odis Newman, and said Bedford later confronted her.
“He told me if I ever said anything about what I heard,” Peninger said, “he would hurt me and my family.”
The Newmans were found March 3, 2005, outside of Portales burned to death in the trunk of their 1997 Lincoln Town Car.
Peninger was arrested March 7, 2005, in Clovis after trying to pawn jewelry belonging to Doris Newman. She said she had no idea the rings were stolen and was asked to pawn them because Bedford didn’t have his identification.
She was arrested later that night after speaking with police, but said she never mentioned Bedford’s threat because she thought she would see him again.
Defense attorney Gary Mitchell countered by reading much of the transcript of Peninger’s interview with State Police Agent Josh Armijo.
Mitchell said Peninger was intimidated by the prospect of murder charges and repeatedly said she knew nothing.
“Do you want to be a witness or do you want to be a defendant?” Mitchell quoted Armijo in conversation with Peninger.
Peninger said she did not recall much of the statement, but had no reason to dispute it.
The defense pointed to Peninger’s plea agreement of Nov. 21, 2005, more than eight months after her arrest. She was given a conditional release from charges if she agreed to testify against other people in connection with the deaths of the Newmans.
Mitchell said Peninger never mentioned Bedford’s threat until the district attorney’s office put pressure on her to testify.
On the redirect, Chandler reminded Peninger she was so upset on Nov. 21, 2005, she threw up in his office. She agreed it was caused by guilt from staying quiet.
“You never asked me,” Peninger told Chandler. “I opened up and talked on my own.”
Bedford, 43, is charged with two counts each of murder and kidnapping along with other lesser charges in connection with the case. He may face the death penalty if convicted.