After Joe Wilkes confessed to the murder of Yvonne Layne and implicated David Thorne of hiring him, the prosecution felt they had a pretty strong case. However, without Joe’s testimony, there was no evidence of David’s involvement in the murder. There was no physical evidence at the scene of the crime pointing to David or Joe’s involvement. Additionally, Yvonne’s family felt David and Yvonne had a good relationship.
Ralph Peti – Ralph was a police officer with the Alliance Police Department for 11 years at the time of the trial. He was one of the first responders to Yvonne’s house at 12:35 p.m. He found Yvonne lying on the ground in a pool of blood. There was also blood on the walls and on a TV, which was on top of her. The dresser was knocked over and random items were on the floor. Two kids were found in the second floor bedroom that was locked from the outside. A third child was found in its third floor crib. Officer Peti placed the victim’s own bedspread over her body in order to remove the children from the property.
Bud Sampson was an Alliance Police detective. He arrived at the scene around 12:40 pm. Bud testified that he left a message for David Thorne on April 1st and that David called him back and said he’d be willing to talk to the police, which he did on April 2nd. Bud testified that on April 2nd, a large kitchen knife was found five blocks from Yvonne’s house. Bud also testified that the manager at the apartment complex where Rose Mohr’s grandmother lived, led the police to Rose Mohr, which on July 8th led to Joe Wilkes. Bud testified that they brought Joe in for questioning under the premise that they were talking to everyone that was an acquaintance of David Thorne’s. He stated that he then told Joe everything they knew from Rose and Chris and he confessed, implicating David as well.
Dennis Florea – Dennis is a fingerprint and firearms examiner for the Canton-Stark Crime Lab. He had been employed for 23 years at the time of the trial. Dennis testified regarding evidence found at the scene. The knives from the scene that were collected were tested and no blood or fingerprints were found. The Stainless Taiwan kitchen knife that was found a few days later on the street was also tested, however no blood was detected but one latent thumbprint was found near the tip of the blade. The print was compared to David Thorne and Joseph Wilkes’ prints, and it did not match either. The print was put through a local database (comprised of Alliance, Canton and Massillon), and it did not match anyone who was 55 or younger that had been arrested in the past two and a half years. Dennis testified that in his opinion the knife found on the street could have come from the set found in Yvonne’s kitchen. Additionally, he testified that the blood swipe on the pillow case which was on the couch was consistent with the kitchen knife found in the street. Mr. Florea testified that there were no prints found on the pack of Marlboro cigarettes or Swisher Sweets cigars nor on any of the cigarette butts, which were found on the scene. Mr. Florea testified that no evidence of Joe was found in the house, car or on a knife.
Jennifer was the criminalist at the Canton-Stark County Crime lab. Her focus was on serology and trace evidence, including blood, semen, saliva, hairs and fibers. Jennifer visited the crime scene in person. Jennifer tested the cigarette butts from the ashtray by the couch. They tested negative for the ABO blood type. She testified that she was never asked to test for DNA on the cigarette butts. A blood stain on a sheet from the bedroom was tested, however it was determined to not be recent and no semen was detected. Two areas of blood were found on the victim’s pink comforter and were tested. One stain was older than the other, but the blood typing came up negative. All of the blood at the scene appeared to be from the same person. All blood was contained to the second floor. Jennifer also tested the pants that Joe Wilkes said he was wearing the night of the murder. She did not find any blood on the pants. Additionally, the knife Joe said he used, was tested and the test came back negative for having human blood on it.
P.S.S. Sreenivasa Murthy
Physician in pathology, coroner for Stark County. PSS Murthy testified regarding the autopsy report at the trial. He testified that the wound across Yvonne’s neck was 8 inches in length. Her steriomastoid was severed, along with two prominent arteries supplying blood to the brain, the aorta and carotid. The wound started on the left and then came down to the right. P.S.S. Murthy testified that Yvonne may have had 10-12 seconds of blood in her brain and could perform some actions in that amount of time. A bump and hemorrhage was found on the back of Yvonne’s head, consistent with falling, which was believed to have happened at the same time as the neck wound. Additionally, there was no evidence of hesitation in the wound nor were there any defensive wounds on Yvonne. PSS Murthy testified that the kitchen knife found in the street could have caused the wound.
Sherman Layne – Sherman was Yvonne’s father. Sherman testified about Yvonne’s background, activities and family. Sherman testified that he last spoke with Yvonne on March 31st, the day before she was found dead. Sherman testified that he would go to Yvonne’s house 2-3 times a week.
Tawnia Layne – Tawnia was Yvonne’s mother. She testified that she picked up Preston and brought him to school every day. She last saw Yvonne alive on March 31st when she picked up Preston for school. She was the first to find her daughter dead the morning of April 1st, when she arrived to pick up Preston for school. Upon her arrival to Yvonne’s home, she beeped the horn, when Preston didn’t come out, she went to the door and found it unlocked. When she entered the house, Yvonne’s son, Vincent, came down the steps, mumbled something and then she found Yvonne’s body. She then left the children in the house and went to a neighbor’s to call the police. Tawnia testified that she does not know or recognize Joe Wilkes. Additionally, Tawnia testified that she believed someone filed for Vince and Yvonne’s welfare got messed up.
Rose Mohr – Rose testified that she and her boyfriend at the time, Chris Campbell, were at Carnation Mall on March 31st. They had finished working at 8:01 p.m. that evening and ran into Joe at the mall’s food court. Rose testified that Joe stated he was in town to kill someone and that someone had paid him to do it. She also testified that Joe seemed nervous and shaky. She said he was wearing a white top with white and dark pants. Additionally, she testified that Joe gave Chris a business card with his name and phone number on it. Rose learned of Yvonne’s death in the newspaper and went to the police a couple of months later.
Christopher Campbell – Chris testified that he and Rose Mohr were at the Carnation Mall food court on the evening of March 31st after they were done working. Chris and Joe were friends. Chris testified that Joe stated on March 31st that his girlfriend had dropped him off at the mall and that he got a room at the Comfort Inn because he was having a party there. Chris testified that Joe did not say that he was in town to kill someone.
Cheryl Balfour – Cheryl was a Comfort Inn worker. She testified that Joe checked in at 1:46 pm on 3/31/99 and that he paid for the room with a $100 bill. She also testified that Joe checked out at 8:35 a.m. the next day.
Connie Harmon – Connie testified on behalf of K-Mart’s Loss Prevention department. She testified that a pair of batting gloves were purchased on March 31st at 1:47 pm and cost $10.31. Additionally, a knife was purchased on March 31st at 8:12 p.m. for the amount of $21.15.
The State’s Star Witness
Joseph Wilkes – Joe testified while wearing his jail clothes. Joe was the second oldest of 8 children and jumped around from foster home to his parents’ home and then back to foster care. From age 5-9 he testified that he was living back at home and that the home was abusive physically, emotionally and sexually. Eventually, he was adopted by Brenda and Sterling Wilkes, along with a brother and sister of his. Joe went to a behavioral school for getting in a fight and dropped out in 1999, never finishing high school. Joe testified that he knew David Thorne for 3-5 years and that they met at a mutual friend’s party. Joe testified that David taught him about shoot fighting, a hobby that David was very involved in. Joe testified that he had met Yvonne two or three times before.
Regarding the murder, Joe testified that David asked him to murder Yvonne because he did not want to pay child support. Joe testified that David asked him to get a room at the Comfort Inn, go to Yvonne’s and be done with the murder by 10 p.m. Joe stated that David gave him the $100 bill to purchase the hotel room. After getting the hotel, Joe testified that he helped his friend’s dad, whom he was staying with, do some dry walling and then had him drop him off at the mall. Joe testified that he bought a knife at K-Mart that evening and ran into Chris and Rose after purchasing the knife, however, he does not recall what he spoke with Chris and Rose about. He testified that he walked from the mall to Yvonne’s house and knocked on the door. She let him in. He stated he did not see any of her kids. He sat down on the couch next to her, she was to his right. He grabbed her by the hair, cut her throat and she jumped up and went to the sliding glass door, turned around, came back to the couch, asked him “why?” and he stated that David wanted him to kill her. She then fell on the floor. He testified that as he went to leave the house, he ran into the TV stand and it fell over. Joe stated he walked back to the hotel, threw the knife into a street drain along on the way and the gloves he was wearing into the dumpster outside of a McDonald’s. Joe testified that he returned to the Enoch’s (the house where he was staying) the next morning in the same clothes he had on the night before. Joe testified that David picked him up around 9 a.m. from the mall and said he’d bring him $200 more later, which he testified that David gave to him the morning of Yvonne’s funeral. Joe testified that when the police questioned him a couple of months later, that he took them to the knife and pants. He was given 30 years to life if he testified against David. Joe did not remember a lot when he testified. Joe testified that the police questioned him for 30 minutes before turning on the tape recorder. Additionally, he stated that the police informed him that David had asked for immunity and was in another room giving evidence against Joe. Joe testified that the police told him how the murder happened and showed him pictures. It was at that point that Joe testified, restating exactly what the police had told him about how the murder happened. Joe testified that he has lied his entire life to get things and has also stolen to take care of himself. Throughout Joe’s testimony he responded to questions from the attorneys 138 times with “I don’t know” or some other response like that.
Testimony regarding David’s Employment
Patricia Tuel – Patricia and her husband own Dale’s Cuda shop, where David worked for 6 years. Patricia had met David’s son, Brandon, on several occasions. Patricia testified that $82.62 had been deducted weekly from David’s paycheck. On April 1st, Patricia testified that she collected the time cards early because she would be leaving at noon. When Patricia collected the time cards, she said that David stated he would be leaving at 9 a.m. for half an hour or so and then would leave for the day at 3. She testified that she recalled seeing David at work at noon.
Charles was the son of Dale and Pat Tuel. Charles testified that David was gone for an hour and a half on April 1st and that when he got back he brought warm McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches for everyone, around 10:15 or 10:30 a.m.
Testimony from Joseph Wilkes’ “family”
Karen Enoch – Karen was Summer’s mother, who was a friend of Joe. Karen testified that she had known Joe for a year or two. Karen received a phone call from Joe in March, asking if he could live with them. They agreed, provided he followed their rules. Karen testified that she first met David on March 31st, when he came over with his lion cub. That day, David left by himself around 5:00 p.m. and Brent, Karen’s husband, took Joe to the mall. Karen testified that she saw Joe the next morning. Karen testified that Joe picked up the paper on April 2nd, and was shocked that Yvonne was dead. Karen testified that David stopped by later to let them know that his phone was tapped and to let Joe know not to call, so that they don’t get brought into the mess. He also stated that the police had impounded his car. Karen testified that Joe lived with them until the end of May. She did not notice any drug use by Joe when he was living with them. Karen testified that she didn’t notice blood on Joe’s clothes when he got home the morning of April 1st.
Brent was Summer’s father. He testified that he dropped off Joe at the Carnation Mall on March 31st. On their way to the mall, he stated that Joe received a page, they pulled over at a gas station and he used a pay phone.
Miscellaneous Prosecution Witnesses
Jacqueline Huntley – Jacqueline testified on behalf of the child support agency. She testified that after it was learned that David was the father of Brandon, David was ordered to pay $351/month in child support.
David Woehrman – An Ameritech telephone security manager was called to testify. He testified regarding phone records of David Kosisko (David’s grandfather), Arnold D. Kirkbride (David’s girlfriend’s home) and David Thorne’s direct number. David Woehrman testified that the records do not show whether or not a message was left or a human being was on the other end. However, many of the phone calls were only 40 seconds or so long, and he believes those were answered by an answering machine.
Jody Johnston – Jody was a Bank One employee. Jody testified that there were no $300 withdrawals from David Thorne’s account.