CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Witness Cynthia Peninger, left, listens to defense attorney Gary Mitchell during cross-examination Monday at District Court in Albuquerque.
By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
ALBUQUERQUE — Prosecution and defense attorneys agreed Monday that prosecution witness Cynthia Peninger was threatened about revealing what she knew about the 2005 deaths of Doris and Odis Newman.
They disagreed on who was doing the threatening.
The prosecution said it was capital murder defendant Stanley Bedford who threatened Peninger. The defense said it was a state police investigator who tried to intimidate Bedford’s former roommate.
Peninger was arrested in March 2005 with Bedford and boyfriend Archie Crawford for possession of stolen property.
While answering questions Monday from District Attorney Matt Chandler in Albuquerque’s District Court, Peninger cried when she spoke of a conversation she overheard in her house. While she was in the kitchen, she said Bedford talked about a tussle with an old man.
She believes that man was Odis Newman, and said Bedford later confronted her.
“He told me if I ever said anything about what I heard,” Peninger said, “he would hurt me and my family.”
The Newmans were found March 3, 2005, outside of Portales burned to death in the trunk of their 1997 Lincoln Town Car.
Peninger was arrested March 7, 2005, in Clovis after trying to pawn jewelry belonging to Doris Newman. She said she had no idea the rings were stolen and was asked to pawn them because Bedford didn’t have his identification.
She was arrested later that night after speaking with police, but said she never mentioned Bedford’s threat because she thought she would see him again.
Defense attorney Gary Mitchell countered by reading much of the transcript of Peninger’s interview with State Police Agent Josh Armijo. Mitchell said Peninger was intimidated by the prospect of murder charges and repeatedly said she knew nothing.
“Do you want to be a witness or do you want to be a defendant?” Mitchell quoted Armijo in conversation with Peninger.
Peninger said she did not recall much of the statement, but had no reason to dispute it.
The defense pointed to Peninger’s plea agreement of Nov. 21, 2005, more than eight months after her arrest. She was given a conditional release from charges if she agreed to testify against other people in connection with the deaths of the Newmans.
Mitchell said Peninger never mentioned Bedford’s threat until the district attorney’s office put pressure on her to testify.
On the redirect, Chandler reminded Peninger she was so upset on Nov. 21, 2005, she threw up in his office. She agreed it was caused by guilt from staying quiet.
“You never asked me,” Peninger told Chandler. “I opened up and talked on my own.”
Bedford, 43, is charged with two counts each of murder and kidnapping along with other lesser charges in connection with the case. He may face the death penalty if convicted.
Highlights from testimony Monday in Stanley Bedford’s capital murder trial:
Relationship to case: Graveyard shift clerk at Chicago Avenue Allsup’s. Was one of two clerks during early-morning visit by Bedford and Jerry Fuller.
Testimony: He had met Bedford at a party a few months before, and Bedford would often visit the convenience store during his shift. On most occasions, Bedford would engage him about “regular guy stuff” for a few minutes. Bedford never said he was buying gas or where he was going. Also, Bedford purchased gloves while there and had never purchased gloves before to Cekander’s knowledge.
Cross examination: Bedford said or did nothing unusual, and he didn’t remember what beverage Bedford purchased. A credit card for a gas pump was declined while Bedford was inside, but Cekander didn’t remember whether he authorized the purchase or if a secondary card was successful.
Evidence: Diagram Cekander drew for investigators of register position and view of gas pumps (originally introduced during testimony of investigator Tim Argo).
Relationship to case: Lives and farms about five miles from the Newman residence.
Testimony: Corbin was leaving his residence March 2 for a card game with friends. When he left at 9:!5 p.m., he saw something reflecting light from his headlights. He stopped and saw glass, a nearly-empty roll of duct tape and drops of blood. He thought it was from a random fight, and mentioned it at the card game in passing. The following day, friends called and told him those items might be related to rumors they had heard. He called the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department and was visited by deputies the next day.
Cross examination: Corbin said he remembered 9:15 p.m. because he was late for the card game and was checking his watch. He never heard anything unusual that night, and said the glass was about enough to make up a truck window. On the redirect, he said a few vehicles had driven through the area before deputies arrived.
Evidence introduced: Photos of Corbin’s property and the road in question.
Relationship to case: Employee of Portales SOS Outlet pawn shop.
Testimony: She was working during the first weekend of March, and was visited by men she identified as Bedford and Archie Crawford, along with an unknown woman. They tried to pawn rings Bedford said he found in the trash. Fryer and her mother, who also works at the store, had their doubts. “It was a beautiful ring,” Fryer said. “It wasn’t something you’d throw in the trash.” They offered Bedford a $100 loan, which he declined.
Cross examination: Bedford wore no disguise, though he had been in the store several times. She said SOS is the only pawn shop in Portales.
Relationship to case: Investigator with State Fire Marshal’s Office. Has helped investigate more than 200 fires. Designated as expert witness.
Testimony: Walked jurors through process of investigating fires, and what evidence rules out accidental fires. Said the 1997 Lincoln Town Car found on Roosevelt Road N 1/2 was an intentional fire which started in the front seat. The car was completely burned, with fires that reached in excess of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cross examination: Monday’s session ended with prosecutors still interviewing Anderson.
Evidence introduced: List of Anderson’s credentials, pictures of the scene of the car fire.