According to our friends at Chattanoogan.com, a woman who police ignored twice when she tried to tell them about a murder over 18 years ago was called as the star witness for the state on Tuesday in the Jason Sanford first-degree murder trial.
Sanford, who had returned to his home state of Michigan shortly after the body of his girlfriend was found stuffed in a trash can in Spring Creek in mid-June 2000, is standing trial in the courtroom of Judge Tom Greenholtz.
The Cold Case Unit formed by District Attorney Neal Pinkston revived the case in 2016 and soon made the arrest of Sanford in the strangulation death of 21-year-old Sarah Davis Perry. DA Pinkston is one of the prosecutors at the trial.
Mary Ruth Boyd told the jury that she was cleaning out her car when an older model white truck drove by very slowly. She said at first she thought it was her brother because he had a similar truck.
She said there was a garbage can in the back of the truck with the lid partly off.
Ms. Boyd said she got a good look at the driver because she said he stared at her as he passed and went on to a dead end, then again as he drove back by slowly.
She said, “Something didn’t seem right.”
The witness said after the truck passed she proceeded on to the grocery store and spotted the truck again. She said it was pulled off the side of the road where a bridge crosses Spring Creek. She said the garbage can was no longer in the truck, but she could see marks where it had been dragged under the bridge.
Ms. Boyd said when she heard there had been a murder in East Ridge she called East Ridge Police “and told them what I had seen. But no one ever contacted me.” She said she was haunted by the incident and felt guilty not telling what she knew, so she called East Ridge Police again in 2004. She said once again no one called or came to interview her.
She said at the time “I wanted to know if they had ever caught the man.”
Ms. Boyd said it was only within the past few months that someone contacted her about the case -investigator Kay Baker. She told her the story and was shown a photo of Sanford. She said she told the investigator, “You’ve got your man.”
In the courtroom, Ms. Boyd said she could make a positive identification of Sanford as the man at the creek with the garbage can. She said, “It’s the gentleman sitting right there.”
She said, “I’m upset that he got by with it for 18 years. What did the kids get? What did the mother get?” Ms. Perry had children ages one and four.
Prosecutor Crystle Carrion told the jury that a cousin of Sanford had given a statement that around the time of the murder that Sanford asked him for money and told him, “I’ve killed Sarah and I need to get out of town.”
She said Sanford got on a Greyhound bus and left to return to Michigan on a Greyhound bus the night after he allegedly killed her.
Defense attorney Amanda Dunn said the cousin, who has since died, gave four different versions and they were all different.
She said Sanford returned to Michigan, but detectives had no trouble finding him when he was interviewed in the wake of the murder and then by the Cold Case Unit.
Attorney Dunn also said there had been multiple suspects, not just Sanford.
The jury was told that Ms. Perry had some mental health and drug use issues.
Peggy Ferguson, who lived next door to Ms. Perry at the time, said she often heard the couple arguing.
She said on a night around the time of the murder she saw Sanford outside the house pacing back and forth nervously.
Dusty Fine said the garbage can came from his family’s nearby auto body shop. He said he worked late on a personal vehicle and forgot to bring the can in. He said it was gone the next morning.
Justin Weathers said he was 12 at the time and was hunting crawdads, fishing and riding bikes at “The Whoops” with a friend when they found the body in the trash can. He said it was the friend who went up to the garbage can under the bridge at Springvale Road.
He said when the friend lifted the lid and saw the body of a woman who was naked from the waist up “he immediately started to holler. We took off running. Then I made him go back and get my bike.” He said they raced back to the friend’s grandmother’s house and she called police.