Jurors viewed the first video evidence during the trial’s morning session in Circuit Judge Malcolm Street’s courtroom. That tape, taken from surveillance cameras inside the Express Mart No. 11 on East Hamric Drive, shows defendant Jesse Scheuing killing clerk Sean Adam Cook and then stealing the cash register.
The second video features Scheuing five days after the murder as he calmly tells an Iowa special agent about the planning and execution of the crime.
“He (Cook) finally turned his head. I pulled out a .38 Special out of my pocket and shot him in the head,” Scheuing told Iowa Special Agent Adam DeCamp. “It was a clean kill.”
Scheuing’s father Bob Scheuing, who spent all day observing the trial proceedings, cried upon hearing his son’s taped confession.
DeCamp was the sole witness to testify during the post-lunch session Wednesday. Chief assistant district attorney Brian McVeigh interviewed him at length about Scheuing’s drawn-out confession after he was arrested in Marion County, Iowa, where he fled after shooting Cook.
Jurors also watched Scheuing’s hour-and-a-half long confession on a flat-screen television.
During his video interview with DeCamp, Scheuing described the murder, the events leading up to it and what he did during the five days it took police to locate him at a Red Carpet Inn in Knoxville, Iowa.
As the interview wore on, it became clear that Scheuing originally lied about the extent to which fellow suspects James Potts and Tifani Kulp were involved in the crime. At first, Scheuing told DeCamp that Potts and Kulp played no part in the Nov. 28, 2008, murder and robbery. But when DeCamp indicated that Oxford police had video footage of Potts and Kulp in the Kia Sportage getaway vehicle that night, Scheuing admitted his long-time friends were there that night.
“I do not want him (Potts) to spend the rest of his life in prison,” Scheuing said as an explanation for why he lied about the couple’s involvement.
Scheuing’s account of the plotting and execution of the two-year-old crime, as shown by video to the jury and others present in the courtroom, is as follows:
A couple days before Thanksgiving, Scheuing arrived in Calhoun County from Georgia to spend time with his friend, Potts, and Potts’ wife, Kulp.
Scheuing said his intent was to hang out with the two before he traveled north to Grand Rapids, Mich., to visit a friend there and stay out of reach of Georgia police, who had a parole-violation warrant out on him.
During the course of his stay at Potts’ Weaver home, Scheuing said he stole a 2000 Kia Sportage from another Weaver residence and found a loaded, .38 Smith and Wesson revolver in the front seat.
Scheuing told DeCamp he knew he needed money to go north, and Potts needed money to buy a new Xbox 360 to play video games on. That’s when Scheuing came up with the plan to rob a store and pitched the idea to Potts, who went along with it, according to the account.
Scheuing said he also knew he secretly planned to kill the person working in whatever store he robbed, but was adamant that Potts didn’t know about his murder plans. He also was adamant that Kulp didn’t know anything about the robbery. She just happened to be in the car the night Potts drove the Kia Sportage to the Express Mart and Scheuing killed Cook before stealing the cash register, according to Scheuing.
Scheuing’s voice was matter-of-fact, and his statements were straightforward when the video showed him telling DeCamp about how he killed Cook.
Scheuing said he lured Cook into trusting him by talking about snack foods, Anime cartoons and candy. Potts introduced Scheuing to Cook earlier that week, and the two had played video games together, Scheuing told DeCamp.
Scheing also stressed that he didn’t kill Cook for any personal reason. He told DeCamp he would’ve shot whoever it was behind the convenience store counter, because he’d made up his mind to do so.
“He (Cook) was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Scheuing said on the video, dressed in the orange inmate jumpsuit given to him by Iowa law enforcement officials.
In the courtroom, Scheuing quietly watched himself confess on the video.
When the video was finished, one of his defense attorneys cross-examined DeCamp, asking the special agent to discuss Scheuing’s demeanor during his confession two years ago.
“Was he polite?” William Miller, the defense attorney asked.
“Absolutely,” replied DeCamp.
Miller also noted that Scheuing only lied to protect his friends and owned up to his responsibility in the crime.
“He was consistent about his guilt,” Miller said.
Also consistent with Scheuing’s account of Cook’s murder was the surveillance video of the shooting shown earlier Wednesday.
The silent video showed Scheuing talking to Cook and then leaving the camera frame for a few minutes. Then, viewers saw Scheuing walk back in view of the camera, lean into the counter, pull out a pistol and shoot 27-year-old Cook in the forehead.
State prosecutors played the tape after the jury heard Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge’s testimony about responding to the crime scene.
Patridge’s account of the night and video served to remind jurors of what they heard from state witnesses Tuesday. McVeigh and assistant district attorney Lynn Hammond interviewed those 11 witnesses as a way to establish a narrative of events that happened the day of the shooting, as well as the role Scheuing allegedly played.
Wednesday morning, prosecutors called witnesses to the stand to discuss what happened prior to and after the murder at the Express Mart, also known as Pak-A-Sak for the parking lot sign left behind by a previous owner.
Weaver residents Lani Harrison and her father answered questions about how Scheuing stole Harrison’s Kia Sportage out of her father’s driveway. It was in that car that Scheuing, Potts and Kulp found the .38 Smith and Wesson revolver used to kill Cook a couple of days later, police said.
Before their testimonies, another Weaver woman told jurors about her stolen 2003 GMC Yukon being recovered on an Iowa interstate on Dec. 4, 2008.
Then, Judge Street read testimony from an Iowa state trooper who was not able to be present in court. According to the trooper’s written statement, when he recovered the vehicle its gas tank was empty.
Police had previously told The Star that Scheuing abandoned it after running out of gas.
Other written testimony from a Red Carpet Inn employee in Marion County, Iowa, recounted how she checked Scheuing into a hotel room that night, then alerted police to his presence after seeing his face on the local evening news.
Later that day, Scheuing’s videotaped interview with DeCamp would corroborate these testimonies.
Also interviewed were two Weaver police investigators and a local woman who said she had Scheuing, Potts and Kulp over to her house for a Thanksgiving dinner the day before the events of Nov. 28.
Defense attorneys Miller and Timothy Burgess questioned Weaver investigators and the woman for their first cross-examinations of the trial.
The cross-examination questions focused on Scheuing’s behavior and demeanor during the Thanksgiving dinner and during his interviews with Weaver police, following his Iowa arrest and subsequent transferal to the Calhoun County Jail.
“Was Jesse Scheuing polite to you when he was over for Thanksgiving dinner?” Miller asked Jeannette Rutledge, a Calhoun County woman who invited Scheuing, Potts and Kulp to her house for the holiday. Rutledge said she knew Potts and Kulp through her son.
“Yes sir. We didn’t have any problem with him,” Rutledge replied, also noting that Scheuing was the one who said grace before dinner that night.
Upon hearing that, Scheuing’s mother, Marilynn Scheuing, looked over at her husband and smiled for the first time throughout the two days of trial.
Potts and Kulp also face capital murder charges and have trials set in November and October, respectively.
Being tried separately, all three defendants face the death penalty or life in prison without parole, if convicted.
Contact staff writer Cameron Steele at 256-235-3562.