Defendant and father describe relationships

Published 10:30 am Thursday, April 29, 2010

Before he talked about what happened leading up to Jody Lee Morrow’s murder, defendant Chad Jamie Gulbertson on Wednesday gave jurors information on his viewpoint of his relationship with Morrow, while also explaining some of his interests and his mental health condition.

His testimony came at the Rice County Courthouse as the second defense witness in his own murder case. He faces five murder charges in the death Morrow, who was found by authorities in her trailer June 21, 2009 after being bludgeoned to death with a hammer.

He followed his father, Dennis Gulbertson, who testified for the second time in the trial.

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At the start of his testimony, Gulbertson, 38, explained he had been attending Cedar House, a mental health day-treatment facility, since the beginning of 2005.

He noted he has been diagnosed as bipolar and antisocial psychotic, and that there are other impulsive control issues as well.

At first he was on lithium for his conditions. For the first few months this gave him a short temper, but after a few months it was better.

“It was like turning on from black and white to color,” he said.

After two or three years on this medication, its effects began to wear off, and he was switched to different prescriptions in 2008. He has also studied martial arts to help with his emotional state.

He said he’s never had a drivers license because his mind could not retain all of the technical information required to pass the tests. He went through 11th grade and later got his GED diploma and has also taken painting and decorating college courses because of his interest in visual arts — whether it be sculpting, carving, drawing or painting. He has dreams of someday being an illustrator for children’s books.

He said at the time he met Morrow in 2005 he was homeless and did not have a job. He noted that being bipolar has affected his ability to keep a job.

He was sometimes staying at a friend’s house, sometimes living under a bridge or at other various places.

“The first weekend we met, we became lovers right away,” Gulbertson said. He and Morrow used to walk all over town together.

The two first moved into an apartment on Jefferson Avenue that fall.

He was getting $203 a month from the county and $220 a month in food stamps.

He contributed to the rent.

They were later asked to leave the Jefferson Avenue apartment after which they found the trailer at 730 Larimore Circle. He said the trailer was like a money pit — once one thing was fixed, something else would break.

He said he contributed to the initial bills to obtain the trailer and also helped make many repairs on it with his father.

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A video

Defense attorneys showed jurors a video Gulbertson made on May 15, 2009, of almost an hour of argument between Gulbertson and Morrow in the trailer.

Gulbertson said he was planning to install video cameras in the trailer. He said Morrow knew he was recording that day.

The video, littered with profanities, showed Morrow yelling for a majority of the time.

She threatened to kill Gulbertson if he took one of the cats out of the house and said that he had pushed her to the limit.

There was also a reference made to putting a knife to Gulbertson’s throat in a prior incident as well as a time Gulbertson and his stepbrother woke up one morning smelling gas and finding that all the knobs had been turned on.

Gulbertson got upset a few times in the video but otherwise he was the quieter of the two pictured.

During cross-examination of Gulbertson, Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Bill Klumpp pointed out that Morrow admitted to doing some things in the video, while she denied some other accusations.

Gulbertson denied all of his accusations.

His father’s testimony

Gulbertson’s father, Dennis Gulbertson, testified there was a period of time before Morrow’s death that he was concerned for his son.

He said he recalled one time prior to when the couple lived in the trailer that he went to pick up his son. He said when he arrived at the couple’s apartment on Jefferson Avenue, his son and Morrow had been arguing.

He said Chad Gulbertson was working on a model and was almost finished with it when Morrow picked it up and crushed it in her hand.

She asked him if that hurt him.

Chad Gulbertson reportedly then walked outside and punched a tree with his fist and came back inside and said that that action hurt.

Dennis Gulbertson said he told his son and Morrow that life is too short to be arguing like they did.

“Jody said to me she wasn’t afraid of Chad,” the father testified.

He said he witnessed many other arguments when he was helping his son with repairs to the trailer. He assisted in re-sealing the roof, leveling the trailer, replacing the bathroom floor and toilet and replacing a wall, among other things.

Dennis Gulbertson also alleged that Morrow called him asking for his son to be brought to her trailer after an order for protection was in place. He believed this time period to be in September of 2008, but that order was ultimately dismissed, Klumpp pointed out.

Dennis Gulbertson said he had noticed scratches and bruises on his son, including bruises on the neck.

“I told him he had to get out of there,” the father said.

He also noted that he does not think two people receiving day treatment at Cedar House should be able to have relationships with each other unless they are married.