Jewel Evern Dyer — finally cornered after attempting to elude trial as a nutcase — at last went through the first step in the direction of justice for killing his stepfather with a baseball bat.
Dr. Kevin Kelly has twice taken a look at Mr. Dyer’s psyche since his arrest for patricide and twice found him competent to stand trial. Desperate to stall, Mr. Dyer then challenged the competence of his lawyer, Public Defender Linda “Dump Truck” Thompson, speculation frequently engaged in the County Courthouse.
At long last, this case went to preliminary hearing last week with Dyer’s new lawyer, Ms. Thompson’s second in command, Carly Dolan, or “Olive Oil,” as she’s fondly known at the jail.
Over the course of the summer Mr. Dyer has made several trips to court and often his private conversations with Linda Thompson were audible to those in the gallery. Mostly, what was being said concerned Dyer’s impatience with a judicial system that just didn’t get it. “This is all such a big waste of time,” he once told Ms. Thompson. “There’s things I’d rather be doing.” I’ll bet. Murder charges can be awfully time consuming, especially if you’re the accused.
Thompson had been overheard explaining — or trying to explain — to her former client that while it might be understandable (and he could hardly expect to find a more sympathetic ear than hers) how a youngster like Dyer could come to be resentful of his father — father figures being hopelessly out of vogue in Mendocino County — it was still nonetheless inadvisable to beat him over the head with a baseball bat and kill him.
In short, if Dyer feels any remorse for his openly confessed patricide, he keeps it masterfully hidden beneath an air of indifference to the weight of his crime and his annoyance with the system that seeks to punish him for it.
A bored-acting Jewel, dressed in the red coveralls which indicates he must be kept separate from the general population of the jail for his own safety, was brought out of the dock and seated next to Ms. Dolan at the defense table. Once he was made comfortable, his right hand was released from handcuffs and he was given a pen and pad to doodle with as the evidence against him was presented.
Deputy DA Scott McMenomey called his first witness, Deputy Matthew Croskey. Croskey had attended the autopsy of the victim, Stafford Sternick. Dr. Jacqueline Benjamin, the County’s forensic pathologist determined the cause of death to be cranial and cerebral blunt force trauma to the head. The victim also had “defense injuries” to both hands, indicating that defendant Dyer had to first swat stepdad’s hands out of the way before he could get a clear shot at his head with the baseball bat. The first blow struck the victim on the forehead, and then, after Sternick was on the floor, the blow to the back of the head, the coup de grâce.
The wonderfully efficient Deputy DA McMenomey had no further questions.
On cross-examination, Ms. Dolan asked about the bleeding from both the cranial wounds, front and back.
Dolan: “Was there any signs that the fracture to the front of the head had hemorrhaged?”
Croskey: “Yes, it had bled quite a bit.”
Dolan: “And isn’t that an indication that the person was still alive?”
Croskey: “Yes it is.”
Dolan: “And as to the injury to the back portion of the head, had it also hemorrhaged?”
Croskey: “Yes, ma’am.”
Dolan: “Did Dr. Benjamin indicate whether or not a person would have been conscious at the time?”
Croskey: “I don’t remember any discussion on that topic.”
Dolan: “You said the wounds to the hands appeared defensive?”
Dolan: “Was that the doctor’s opinion or yours?”
Croskey: “It was mine.”
Dolan: “Did these wounds also bleed?”
Dolan: “An indication that the person was still alive?”
Croskey: “Yes, that’s correct.”
Dolan: “I have nothing further.”
Officer Rico McCoy was called. He now works for Willits Police Department, but was a deputy with MCSO at the time of the homicide, and was dispatched to the Sternick residence at 3356 North Highway 101 north of Laytonville, at about 3:30 in the morning to investigate a fight between a father and son.
McCoy arrived around 4:30am, and was hailed by Clayton Sternick, who called him up a path from the gate to the house. The deputy questioned Clayton briefly, was told by Clayton that his stepbrother Jewel Dyer had killed his father. Deputy McCoy cuffed Clayton and put him in the patrol car, then went in and found Jewel who said it was in self-defense. McCoy arrested Jewel Dyer, then turned to the victim on the floor. He checked for a pulse and didn’t find any.
All these facts were succinctly elicited by the prosecution.
Dolan on cross-examination: “Mr. Dyer had been living in the house, sleeping on the couch?”
McCoy: “Yes, that’s what I was told by Clayton Sternick.”
Dolan (having shown McCoy a photograph): “This is how you found the decedent?”
Dolan: “He had his arm outstretched?”
McCoy: “It was across his face.”
Dolan: “Was a knife found next to the body.”
McCoy; “I don’t recall.”
Dolan: “Did he have a headlamp on his head?”
McCoy: “Yes, I believe he did.”
Dolan: “Was it on or off?”
McCoy: “I don’t recall turning it off.”
Dolan: “Nothing further.”
Detective Luis Espinoza was called and reported that he’d learned Clayton had moved to the property to take care of Stafford Sternick who was in poor health. Then in February Jewel moved in for the same reason. But what they were doing is setting up an irrigation system for the spring crops. Then they went to Clayton’s cabin and (perhaps partied) until after midnight, at which time Jewel went down to the house and was gone until after 3:00 a.m. when he came back to Clayton’s cabin and told his step-brother, “I killed Pops with a baseball bat. I ain’t stressed no more. There ain’t gonna be no stress no more.”
Obstinate natures refuse to make the logical inference that Jewel Dyer didn’t come to the Sternick homestead out of any sense of filial duty, but rather to participate in plucking profits from the money tree. Coming into the house after midnight woke “Pops” up, and Pops came out of his bedroom and confronted Jewel. At this point the baseball bat was deployed to beat stepdad to death.
Close three hours passed before law enforcement was first alerted, giving Jewel plenty of time alone with the crime scene and get his act together, before telling his brother Clayton what he’d done. Clayton then called 911.
Dolan (referring to a police report) on cross: “Did you interview Clayton that morning?”
Dolan: “Did he tell you he’d been living there since July of 2015?”
Dolan: “Did he say that before that he’d lived in Oakland?”
Dolan: “He told you that Jewel lived in the house with his father?”
Dolan: “And he made a comment about stress?”
Dolan: “He described the father as difficult to live with?”
Dolan: “Did he use the word dementia?”
Dolan: “Did he [Clayton] say his father had threatened him with a knife?”
Dolan: “But he [Clayton] walked away and after that tried to limit his time around his father?”
Dolan: “Did he [Clayton] describe his father as having a temper?”
Dolan: “Did he say there was some tension between Jewel and his father?”
Dolan: “Did he describe him as someone who could become threatening?”
Dolan: “Did he snap his fingers and say, ‘it could happen just like that’?”
Dolan: “Did Clayton tell you all the knives had been removed from the house?”
Dolan: “Did he say Jewel had removed them?”
Espinoza: “I think he did.”
Dolan: “Did he say Jewel felt threatened by his father?”
Dolan: “That’s all I have.”
McMenomey for the prosecution: “Did Clayton also describe Jewel as ‘kind of mental’?”
McMenomey: “Did he also mention that he’d been off his meds?”
Dolan: “Was there a knife found beside the decedent?”
Dolan: “Was it sheathed?”
Espinoza: “That is correct.”
Dolan: “Did it appear to have been out of the sheath?”
Espinoza: “Not to me.”
McMenomey: “Did you take any photographs of the defendant at the scene?”
McMenomey: “Did he have any injuries?”
Espinoza: “Not that I could see.”
McMenomey: “What evidentiary value do you place on those photographs?”
Espinoza: “They show that there was no evidence that the defendant had been assaulted at any point.”
Dolan: “Where was the knife found?”
Espinoza: “By his right shoulder.”
Dolan: “Was his arm extended away from it?”
Dolan: “How big was the knife?”
Espinoza: “Approximately eight inches.”
Dolan: “And Jewel Dyer had no wounds?”
Espinoza: “I didn’t see any.”
Detective Clinton Wyant was called. He had interviewed Jewel Dyer and learned that he’d been sleeping on the couch and said that when he came in that night, at three or four in the morning, his father came in the livingroom and started an argument, blaming Jewel for waking him up. He said his father then came at him with a machete and chased him out onto the porch. He said he’d been sleeping with a baseball bat and used it to kill his father in self-defense. He described the knife variously as a Crocodile Dundee knife, or a machete in a brown sheath. He said his father’s cooking wasn’t up to his standards and he’d found a hair in his food; he also said he had been worried about being kicked out.
McMenomey: “Did the defendant tell you the victim locked the door after chasing him onto the porch?”
McMenomey: “Did he say he continued to argue through the locked door, and he finally persuaded his father to open the door and let him back in and at that time he immediately struck the victim with the bat?”
Wyant: “That’s what he said, yes sir.”
McMenomey: “Did he say he struck the victim again after he was on the floor?”
Wyant: “Yes he did.”
McMenomey: “Did he say why?”
Wyant: “He said he heard groans and wanted to make sure he [the victim] wasn’t alive.”
McMenomey: “Did he say anything else?”
Wyant: “He said, ‘He [the victim] was still in pain so I had to finish it. He was a bad dad and I wanted to kill the fuck.”
McMenomey: “Nothing further.”
Dolan: “You describe the decedent as elderly, but wasn’t he born in 1957?”
Wyant: “That’s correct.”
Dolan: “Was he disabled?”
Wyant: “He walked with a kind of shuffle.”
Dolan: “Did he say he’d [Dyer or Dad?] been released from Napa State Hospital and was off his meds?”
Dolan: “He [Dyer] indicated to you he lived in that house — it was his home?”
Dolan: “He told you his father trapped him on the porch?”
Dolan: “Did he say his father had threatened to cut off his legs and arms?”
Dolan: “He said with a machete?”
Dolan: “But what he described was a regular knife?”
Dolan: “”Like the one that was found?”
Dolan: “He told you he typically cowers when his father gets like this?”
Dolan: “Did he tell you he went to bed with a bat?”
Wyant: “He did, but he told two different versions of that.”
Dolan: “According to Dyer his father was coming at him when he struck him with the bat?”
Dolan: “Did he describe his father as rushing onto the porch like a crazy person?”
Dolan: “Did he refer to his father as retarded?”
Wyant: “I believe he said a Special Olympics case.”
Dolan (with a cringe of revulsion at the slur): “Nothing further.”
Judge Ann Moorman found sufficient evidence to hold Dyer for murder in the first, but declined to hold him on the additional charge of breaking into an inhabited dwelling since the late Mr. Sternick had been persuaded to open the door and let his killer in after locking him out on the porch.