Jury begins deliberations in Gulbertson case

Published 4:43 pm Thursday, April 29, 2010

A 12-member jury began deliberations in the homicide case against Chad Jamie Gulbertson just after 4 p.m. today.

Gulbertson faces five murder charges in the death of his ex-girlfriend Jody Lee Morrow, who was found dead in her trailer at 730 Larimore Circle on June 21, 2009. She sustained three stab wounds to the neck and at least 18 blows to the head with a hammer.

The deliberations began after closing arguments from both the prosecution and the defense, along with a series of jury instructions given by Freeborn County District Court Judge John A. Chesterman.

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The prosecution’s closing arguments

In what was about an hour and a half of closing arguments, Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Bill Klumpp took the jurors through the timeline of events that led to Morrow’s death, discussed evidence that supported the state’s case and thoroughly talked about each charge against Gulbertson the state had to prove.

He said he thinks the state has been able to prove each of Gulbertson’s charges:

First-degree murder involving premeditation.

First-degree murder while committing domestic abuse.

First-degree murder while committing a burglary.

Second-degree murder intentional.

Second-degree murder while restrained by an order for protection.

Klumpp said from 2007 to 2009, there were multiple calls to police for domestic disturbances between Gulbertson and Morrow, and in September of 2008, Gulbertson stated at a rummage sale that he should kill Morrow. This was around the same time Morrow applied for her first order for protection, of which she never followed through on.

In May of 2009, Morrow applied for an emergency order for protection, and on June 1 that order was made official. Gulbertson was to have no contact with Morrow and was not to enter her home, among other stipulations.

On June 20, 2009, the day before the murder, Gulbertson was in and out of Sandy Nash’s apartment on Court Street, where he told Nash that he was going to sneak into Morrow’s trailer and get his jewelry-making supplies, according to Nash’s testimony.

At about midnight or shortly after on June 21, 2009, Dan Thorpe, who lived on the other end of the trailer park, testified he saw Gulbertson sneaking into the park.

Between that time and about 6 a.m. is when Morrow was killed, Klumpp said.

He said prosecutors have proven that Gulbertson snuck into the trailer when Morrow was asleep and when Morrow confronted him after being awakened she told him to leave.

She was going to call police so the order for protection could be enforced, but Gulbertson didn’t want that, so he grabbed one of his knives and stabbed her three times, Klumpp said. The phone was also broken in the process.

When he found that wasn’t working, he grabbed a hammer, hitting Morrow first in the forehead and then repeated the act for a total of at least 18 blows to her head.

These were not sudden or rash acts, Klumpp said. Gulbertson had to decide to pick up the hammer and decide where to hit her.

After Gulbertson stopped, he went into the entryway to make sure the two deadbolts were locked on the front door and got blood on both the inside and outside doorknobs of the middle door.

He then turned out the lights, went out the back door, locked it and then fled the scene.

He went back to his friend Al Ankerson’s house, where he was staying at the time, through a field and wooded area, as opposed to on the main roads. Ankerson was not home for the weekend.

In the time that followed, Klumpp said Gulbertson cleaned up. He didn’t get to change his shoes, however, because that was the only pair of shoes he owned. They were wet when his belongings were seized by police later that day.

At 6 or 6:30 a.m. Gulbertson called his father, asking him to pick him up and take him to his house.

In the next few hours he got to thinking about what had happened and started to tell his father part of the truth, Klumpp said.

Gulbertson told him he thought he killed Morrow with a hammer.

The two went into the Law Enforcement Center in Albert Lea around noon, where Gulbertson put out his hands on more than one occasion, asking various officers to put handcuffs on him.

Klumpp said first Gulbertson said he thought he killed Morrow with a hammer.

Later that day he changed his story to say that Morrow pulled a knife on him and that he then fell back on the table and grabbed the hammer.

During a telephone call with his father on June 25, 2009, Gulbertson told his father that Morrow hit him with a hammer, and then in a conversation with his mother July 25, 2009, he said Morrow got a hammer and broke his hand. After this happened he got the hammer away from her, but then she grabbed a knife.

Then in a call with a friend on July 29, 2009, Gulbertson said Morrow broke his hand with the hammer and he responded in self defense. He said it was just he and Morrow in the trailer.

Gulbertson’s testified Wednesday during the trial that Albert Leans Joseph Lee and Sandra Nash had actually been the people who committed the murder and that he was an eye witness.

“The facts don’t change, the truth doesn’t change; why did the defendant’s story change?” Klumpp said.

Klumpp said this change in the story shows that Gulbertson wants to avoid responsibility for his actions and that he wanted to make his father feel better.

The lawyer said while Morrow may have been loud and profane at times, she didn’t deserve to die that morning in her wheelchair.

In the spring of 2009 with the encouragement from her friends, Morrow was beginning to do better, in both her outlook on life and her health.

“She never got the chance to tell us what was going to happen with the rest of her life,” Klumpp said.

The defense’s closing arguments

Defense lawyer Kevin Riha said at the time of Morrow’s death, Gulbertson was a man who lived day to day, who was homeless and who was receiving day treatment at Cedar House. He was supposed to be on medication for his medical condition.

Morrow was a woman who was under pressure and who was worried about getting the money to bring her children up to visit.

Riha told the jurors that what is interesting about Gulbertson’s case is that there is no physical evidence to tie him to the scene of the crime. Officials did not find Morrow’s blood on Gulbertson’s clothing, and his fingerprints were not found at the scene.

When Gulbertson came into the Law Enforcement Center the day of Morrow’s death and confessed to her murder, investigators stopped looking for any other suspects in the case, he said.

At that point, “the loop has sort of closed,” Riha said.

He pointed out that both Nash and Lee, who Gulbertson implicated with Morrow’s murder on Wednesday, testified Thursday morning that they had heard about Morrow’s death at 10 a.m.

Gulbertson didn’t go into the Law Enforcement Center to talk with police until about noon.

Nash also went to the Laundromat that morning to do her laundry and Lee had previously made an agreement to pay Morrow some money for a bill.

“There’s no effort, no follow-up to make sure their stories checked out,” Riha said.

He asked what motive Gulbertson had to take the blame for Morrow’s murder.

Riha said Gulbertson had been in prison before and that it was not a big deal to him to go back. He also didn’t want Nash to go to prison.

He said Gulbertson was shielding Lee and Nash, just as they had shielded him from any blood that would have gotten on his clothes at the trailer during the attack.

He said there is doubt in the case because of Nash and Lee’s comments that they had heard about Morrow’s death two hours before Gulbertson confessed to it. Also there was no sign of forced entry and at the same time no key found.

There was no physical evidence to tie Gulbertson to the crime.

If it had just been Gulbertson in the trailer with Morrow and he intended to kill Morrow, why would he not take the ball-peen hammer and knife used in the murder and dispose of them, Riha asked.

The closing arguments came after nine days of testimony in the trial.

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