The toddler's words to investigators were chilling: "Mommy's crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy's in the rug," and, later, "Daddy's mad."
The statements by the 2 1/2-year-old son of former police officer Bobby Cutts Jr. and his pregnant lover, Jessie Davis, were investigators' first clues that Cutts may have had something to do with her disappearance.
A jury decided on Friday that he did. Cutts was convicted of killing Davis and her unborn fetus, a verdict that could land him a death sentence. Cutts sat with his hands on his lap and held his head erect without emotion as the verdicts were read.
Davis' mother found the couple's son, Blake, home alone on June 14 and called police. Bedroom furniture was toppled, and there was a pool of bleach on her floor.
After denying knowledge of Davis' whereabouts for over a week as thousands searched for Davis, Cutts, then an officer on the Canton police force, led investigators to her body, wrapped in a comforter and dumped in a park about 20 miles from her home.
Says it was an accident
Faced with mounting evidence at his trial implicating him in Davis' death, Cutts took the stand and tearfully explained that he accidentally killed Davis, 26, at her Lake Township home by putting an elbow to her throat when she tried to prevent him from leaving her house. He said he then panicked and got rid of her body.
Prosecutors told the jury that Cutts killed Davis to get out of child support payments for a fourth child. He was the father of Davis' unborn child and the toddler; his other two children were with other women.
Cutts, 30, was convicted of aggravated murder in the death of the nearly full-term female fetus, which carries the possible death penalty. The jury found him not guilty of aggravated murder in Davis' death, a count that includes intent to kill with prior calculation. But they convicted him of a lesser charge of murder in her death.
Defense attorneys asked Stark County Common Pleas Judge Charles E. Brown Jr. to declare a mistrial because the differing verdicts on the two counts. Brown rejected the request, saying the allegations involved separate individuals: Davis and the fetus.
Cutts also was convicted of abuse of a corpse, burglary and child endangering. Jurors will return later this month to weigh a sentencing recommendation.
Defense: No proof of intent
His attorneys said his actions in dumping the body and leaving the little boy alone didn't prove he intended to kill Davis.
"Does that cause you to feel that he's a liar and a cheat and he's going to lie about everything else?" defense attorney Fernando Mack asked during his closing argument Tuesday. "None of that will tell you whether aggravated murder was committed on the morning of June 14th."
Defense attorneys also stressed that there was no forensic evidence linking Cutts to the death and that a medical examiner couldn't determine how Davis died because of decomposition from nine days of exposure in the summer heat.
But prosecutor Dennis Barr told the jury that Cutts' story made no sense and said a police officer wouldn't hide a body unless he was covering up a criminal act. He noted Cutts' testimony that he sprayed down his truck after getting rid of Davis' body because of bugs on his windshield.
"Is that reasonable?" Barr asked. "Or is it more reasonable to think that he stopped and washed that truck to get rid of trace evidence?"
The prosecution's key witness, Cutts' longtime friend Myisha Ferrell, testified that Cutts picked her up in his truck the morning of June 14 with Davis' body in the back and held up his right arm to demonstrate how he killed her.
Jurors will return Feb. 25 to hear evidence on whether to recommend the death penalty. The aggravated murder count could also bring life in prison without parole or life with parole eligibility after at least 20 years.