NEW BOSTON, Texas — A woman accused of murder allegedly caused 16 stab wounds and 55 incised wounds to a 71-year-old man discovered dead in his DeKalb, Texas, apartment in 2015.
A Dallas medical examiner testified Wednesday in the trial of Shirley Ann Falkowski, 56, that stab wounds are deeper than they are wide while incised wounds are wider than they are deep. In all, the body of James Earl Johnson, who was 5 foot 1 inch tall and weighed about 135 pounds, suffered 71 cuts.
"Ladies and gentlemen, that's a lot of stabbing," said Assistant District Attorney Katie Carter in her opening statement Wednesday morning.
Falkowski is accused of killing Johnson sometime before noon Aug. 5, 2015. The jury of seven men and five women heard testimony that Falkowski confessed in February 2019 during an interview with Texas Rangers and watched a video filmed at an ATM machine that showed Falkowski attempting to use Johnson's debit card in the early hours of Aug. 5, 2015.
Falkowski's defense team, Assistant Public Defenders Sylvia Delgado and Amanda Gunn, questioned law enforcement witnesses about what they didn't do and who they didn't suspect during cross examinations Wednesday. In her opening statement, Delgado told the jury she expects Falkowski will testify in her own defense and answer questions about her alleged confession.
Rushing Pest Control technician Tommy Green testified that he and Nancy Son, an administrator with the Housing Authority in DeKalb managing the apartment where Johnson lived, were doing routine rounds to the apartments on Aug. 5, 2019. Green testified that he would enter an apartment after yelling and knocking and typically began treating the area to his right for pests.
If the tenant wasn't home, Son would use a key to enter and complete an inspection of the property while Green performed his pest control duties, Green testified.
Green said a Meals on Wheels volunteer was leaving No. 26 on Oak Street as they approached and told them he didn't think Johnson was home. Green said that when he flipped the light on in Johnson's bedroom he called out to Johnson, who was lying on the floor covered in blood, but got no response.
Green said he backed out of the room, warned Son not to come in and told her to call 911.
Delgado questioned Green about the shoes he was wearing that day.
"Probably work boots," Green said.
Under additional questioning by Carter, Green denied he was wearing a pair of ladies, white, slip-on shoes, size seven-and-a-half.
Son testified that it was common for Meals on Wheels to leave a tray in an apartment for an elderly resident and that Johnson didn't always lock his door. A photo showing the meal on Johnson's dining table was shown to the jury.
Son said that while on the phone with the emergency dispatcher she was asked about the temperature in the apartment and was asked to perform CPR. Son testified that she told the dispatcher she believed Johnson was dead but did touch his hand, which was cold to the touch. Son said she checked the thermostat and told the dispatcher the temperature was about 70 degrees.
Under cross examination by Delgado, Son testified that she didn't notice any footprints in the blood but had barely entered the room to touch Johnson's hand and left. Delgado questioned Son about caregivers of Johnson's, one of whom also lived in the apartments and whom she expected would have been at Johnson's apartment that day.
Son testified that about two weeks after the murder a resident on a nearby street called to tell her that she and her caregiver had discovered a knife in a yard. Son said she contacted DeKalb police and the knife was collected. She also testified that she was not wearing a pair of ladies, white, slip-on shoes, size seven-and-a-half.
Former DeKalb Police Chief Shawn Walraven testified that two days after the murder he helped execute a search warrant obtained by the Texas Rangers on Falkowski's trailer. Acting on a tip from a resident, Walraven said officers searched a commercial dumpster next to Falkowski's residence that was overflowing with bags of trash.
Walraven testified that officers searched every bag in the dumpster and found a pair of ladies shoes, white slip-ons, size 7-and-a-half, in a white grocery store bag with green writing.
"It appeared to match the (foot) print found at the crime scene," Walraven said. "It was literally the last bag we went through."
On cross examination, Gunn asked Walraven if grocery bags like the one in which the shoes were found had been discovered in Falkowski's trailer. Walraven said he did not know.
Walraven told the jury he immediately turned the investigation into Johnson's murder over to the Texas Rangers the day of the murder because that agency has resources and training beyond that of the five-member DeKalb Police Department.
Bowie County Emergency Management Coordinator Lance Hall, who was an investigator for the Bowie County District Attorney's Office in Feb. 12, 2019, testified under questioning from First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp that he accompanied Texas Rangers Jay Womack and Greg Wilson the day they went to re-interview Falkowski.
Hall said that after confessing to Wilson that she had killed Johnson, Falkowski confessed to her father.
"Her father seemed shell-shocked," Hall testified.
Hall said Falkowski was emotional and expressed concern about what others would think of her, whether she'd be on television and whether she'd get the electric chair.
Under cross examination by Gunn, Hall testified that the knife found a couple of weeks after Johnson's murder was not sent to the crime lab because a test done by crime scene technicians with the Texarkana, Texas, Police Department showed there was no biological evidence on it.
Gunn asked Hall if people confess to crimes they don't remember committing.
"She didn't say she didn't remember doing it," Hall said, noting that Falkowski claimed not to recall some details, including why she killed Johnson.
Under additional questioning by Crisp, Hall testified that it is not unusual for a suspect to confess but be unwilling to recount every detail. Hall said no coercion was applied to Falkowski and that she thanked him and the Rangers for "treating her fairly."
Miller put the jury in an evening recess at about 5 p.m. with instructions to return to the Bowie County courthouse Thursday morning. Falkowski faces five to 99 years or life in prison if convicted.
A verdict in the case is expected this week.