The daughter of murder victim Taja Whiteside said on the witness stand on Wednesday that she could not remember hearing Kameron Leslie say “I’ll kill you” the night her mother was killed.
Prosecutor Michael Dowd had told the jury in an opening statement that she had told that to police.
The trial of Leslie began Wednesday with 14 witnesses. He is accused of murdering Ms. Whiteside on Jan. 11, 2019. Leslie represents himself along with "elbow counsel" Garth Best.
The daughter stuck with her position even after chief homicide prosecutor Dowd asked her to read the statement she made at the crime scene four years ago.
In the statement taken the day of the murder, she had said she did hear Leslie say, “I’ll kill you.” The statement was taken by forensic interviewer Candy Overby, who will be called as a witness in order to enter the statement into evidence.
The daughter stated that she woke in the middle of the night to Leslie and her mother “cussing” and arguing, and to bumping and crashing like shattering glass. She said she heard the front door slam and a car start and drive away.
Ms. Whiteside’s three children, ages 17, 11 and 9, testified that Leslie had been their mother’s boyfriend at the time and was living in the home with them. They were 13, 7 and 5 at the time of the murder.
The oldest son testified that he and his siblings woke up late in an empty house Jan. 11, and that he found his mother, dead, in her room after using a gift card to unlock the bedroom door. He called his grandmother to tell her, “I think my mom’s dead.” She told him to check for a cold, stiff body, and then told him to call 911.
Chattanooga Police Department officer Derek Roncin, crime scene investigator Gregory Mardis and Jerry McElroy of the CPD crime scene unit also testified Wednesday. They were in agreement that there had been no forced entry to the home nor signs of a struggle downstairs. They said that Ms. Whiteside’s body showed signs around her neck and eyes of strangulation.
Nine more witnesses are scheduled on Thursday. Judge Amanda Dunn decided she will allow Leslie’s expert witness regarding phone records because in this case an expert witness cannot influence any interpretation of facts presented.
In 2021 the state agreed not to introduce evidence of “prior bad acts,” specifically Leslie’s arrest and charge of assault in another Tennessee city, after an objection had been filed by Leslie.
“I and the state are not limited to his version of reality,” said prosecutor Dowd.
In his questioning, the prosecutor spent a lot of time establishing these things:
That CPD had found an unused condom underneath Ms. Whiteside’s body.
That the family and Leslie had eaten chicken and broccoli for dinner Jan. 10 and then the kids went to bed at about 9 p.m.
That the blue Ford was Ms. Whiteside’s car which she always drove and Leslie only drove a couple of times.
That the oldest son had his own room and that the younger two sisters and brother shared a room.
Leslie was arrested in Jacksonville, Fla., almost four months after the slaying and after he went on the TBI's Most Wanted List. He drove Ms. Whiteside's car to Florida.