Jimmy Rodgers trial: Opening statements and witness testimony: Day 1

Thursday morning opening statements began in the first murder trial connected to the 2015 death of Dr. Teresa Sievers, who was beaten to death in her kitchen with a hammer.

Dr. Mark Petritis, a family friend of Mark, 51, and Teresa Sievers, 46, first found the victim’s body. The retired medical doctor with a specialization in general surgery went into the Sievers’ home at Mark’s request on June 29, 2015. “I approached her more closely and I saw how her head had been bashed in,” he said.

It was an emotional day in the courtroom for the family of Teresa; listening to the murder and crime scene play out multiple times. Annie Lisa, the victim’s sister, took the stand. “She was my sister and the love of my life,” Lisa said. Lisa was painting a picture of her charismatic and robust sibling.

The prosecution started the day by explaining the evidence they had against Jimmy Rodgers, 29, connecting him and Curtis Wayne Wright to the murder. Jimmy and Teresa’s husband, Mark Sievers, are co-defendants in the case. Both face charges of First-Degree Murder. If convicted, they would face the death penalty.

The prosecution started the trial Thursday, explaining the evidence they have against Jimmy, connecting him and Wayne to the murder. “This case was about the perfect marriage, the perfect friendship, the perfect alibi, the perfect murder,” said Hunter Hamid of the State Attorney’s Office. “It was almost perfect.”

The state said Jimmy attacked Teresa with a hammer alongside Wayne at the request of her husband, Mark. Other connections in the case include testimony from his girlfriend at the time, who said they tossed blue overalls covered in blood and a cell phone on the side of a Missouri road.

Wayne admits he played a part in Teresa’s murder and is a crucial witness for the state. But the defense said he is unreliable and changed his story several times. “He made numerous statements,” the defense said. “Eight at last count…”

Jimmy’s attorney added he was transparent about coming to Florida. Jimmy and Wayne traveled to our state for a vacation ahead of the 4th of July weekend. “They went to the beach,” the prosecution said. “All kinds of video surveillance up and down the beach.”

Watch a livestream from the courtroom or click HERE. You can also follow along with a live blog below.

WARNING: This livestream may include graphic content that may be disturbing to some viewers

DAY 1: PART 1

DAY 1: PART 2

DAY 1: PART 3

DOCUMENT: Full Witness List


4:20 P.M.

Court recessed for the day and will continue again at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

1:56 P.M. 

Kimberly Van Waus is an LCSO crime scene technician and analyst who was called to the murder scene. She is being questioned by the state right now.

1:30 P.M.

Court has reconvened and the next witness is about to take the stand. This one is expected to be lengthy.

12:00 p.m.

The court adjourned for lunch recess until 1:15 p.m.

11:45 p.m.

So far we’ve heard from several witnesses called by the state.

Sandra Hoskins,  a medical assistant who worked at Dr. Sievers practice. She says she tried calling Teresa on her cell when she didn’t show up for work on a Monday morning. Says she was always on time. She then got a hold of Mark via text.

Mark Petrites, retired doctor and longtime friend of Teresa, found Teresa dead in her home. He says Mark left him a voicemail asking him to go to the house to check on Teresa because she wasn’t answering her phone. Petrites says he thought it was odd that Mark wanted him to physically go inside the home, but he didn’t feel comfortable with it.

Adam Hughes, Bonita Springs Fire Control and Rescue District, says they were called to the Sievers’ home for a cardiac arrest. Said Teresa had injuries “incompatible with life”.

11:10 a.m. 

THIRD WITNESS: The state calls Mark Petrites, a longtime friend of Dr. Teresa Sievers. Petrites found Dr. Sievers dead inside her home in 2015

SECOND WITNESS: After a short break, the state calls its next witness, a medical assistant who worked at Dr. Teresa Sievers’ practice in 2015. The medical assistant said she tried to call Dr. Sievers on her cellphone when she didn’t show up for work on time Monday morning. She then got a hold of her husband Mark Sievers via text

FIRST WITNESS: Theresa Sievers’ sister is now on the stand. She says Theresa was “the love of my life.” She is now describing her final moments with her sister before the murder and showed the jury a picture of her sister.

10:15 a.m. 

Defense: “There was absolutely no communication between Mark Sievers and Jimmy Rodgers,” Kathleen Fitzgeorge, attorney for Jimmy Rodgers

Defense: “What you will hear will show that he was not part of any conspiracy and he did not kill Dr. Teresa Sievers,” Kathleen Fitzgeorge, attorney for Jimmy Rodgers

Defense: You will hear that Mr. Wright and Mr. Sievers had a decades old friendship, they were good friends… But Mr. Sievers and Curtis Wright had a bizarre relationship

The prosecution wrapped up, and the defense is now beginning their opening statements.

9: 50 a.m. 

Prosecution: “Doctor Sievers was making the money. Mr. Sievers told Mr. Wright he didn’t want to lose his daughters. The only way for him to win was to lose his wife. “Can you help me?” he said to Mr. Wright.”

Rodgers’ attorney is objecting as the state begins to describe when detectives went to get a statement from Rodgers in Sept. 2015

Prosecution: “He was trained on how to avoid contamination. Same training that could be applied in avoiding contamination at a crime scene or avoid contamination by a crime scene.

Prosecution: “Next to doctor Sievers was a hammer. You are going to get to see pictures of that hammer. The hammer had hair on it.” The autopsy revealed she died as a result of being bludgeoned to death

8:48 a.m. 

Teresa Sievers’ family is sitting in the courtroom. The court is working through a few unrelated cases before it gets into the opening statements.

——–

An attorney WINK News spoke with says it will be all about first impressions because that is something that ultimately frames the way the jury will see the rest of the trial.

On top of evidence and testimony, attorney Peter Dennis tells us how a defendants body language can influence a jury.

Smug, happy, or sad, all the expressions can have an effect. Dennis told WINK News if Rodgers were his client in this case, he would advise him to remain neutral with his expressions.

He says the wrong expression, like a smile or a laugh can signal to the jury that you are not taking the matter serious and you are not engaged.

One tactic many attorneys use to try to keep their clients focused is by telling them to draw or take notes on a note pad, which is something we have seen Rodgers doing frequently in the court room.

Meanwhile, 12 jurors have and 2 alternates have been chosen to decide the fate of Jimmy Rodgers.

8 women and six men, and their ages range from their 30’s to their 80’s. Some are stay at hone parents and others are retired, which is a typical jury for a case like this according to some legal experts.

“Skewing more towards people who don’t work outside the home, and towards people who are retired,” Dennis said.

Teresa Sievers husband is expected to go on trial following the conclusion of Jimmy Rodgers trial.

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Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Taylor Petras
Writer:Michael Mora
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