Rhonda Parker / @ 7:38 a.m. / Courts

LIVELY TRIAL, DAY FIVE: Police, Firefighter Testify About Victim’s Last Minutes, Subsequent Investigation


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Jesse Simpson was walking and talking immediately after Eric Lively’s pickup truck ran over him in Shelter Cove, Lively told a California Highway Patrol officer after the fatal crash.

“Mr. Simpson said he wanted to go home,” CHP Officer Juan Lopez testified yesterday, recalling Lively’s statement. “He walked to the northeast corner of the intersection. That’s as far as he made it.”

Minutes later volunteer firefighter Cheryl Antony arrived at the intersection of Debbie Lane and Eileen Road.

“The person on the ground was somebody that I knew,” Antony testified yesterday during Lively’s murder trial. “I know Jesse Simpson because he’s worked for me and been an acquaintance of mine for many years.”

If Simpson had been walking and talking shortly before, that was far from the case now.

“He was breathing but that’s about it,” Antony said under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada. “There was no response at all to anything.”

Antony described the last moments of the 42-year-old Simpson’s life, as he was loaded in an ambulance and driven to the Shelter Cove Airport. The plan was to have him flown out by air ambulance, but that didn’t happen. Medics had started an IV with saline and some drugs “to try to bring him around,” Antony said. Then Simpson stopped breathing.

Antony said CPR was started and continued for at least 30 minutes. A paramedic pronounced Simpson dead at the airport.

Jurors saw photographs of Simpson’s battered, bloody face and head. There also was a photograph of his lower left leg,  twisted at an odd angle. And the jury was shown a picture of Lively’s smashed-up Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, with the left headlight dangling out and the hood bent and crumpled.

The courtroom was very quiet, except for the sobs of Simpson’s friends and family members in the audience.

Simpson’s death culminated years of hostility between him, his brother Thomas Simpson and Lively. But it will be up to the jury to decide whether Lively planned and executed a murder or accidentally hit Simpson when he jumped in front of his truck. Simpson reportedly had a high level of methamphetamine in his system at the time.

There is no doubt Lively was distraught afterward. Many witnesses have described his anguish, with Antony saying yesterday that she heard his “hysterical” voice behind her. He was insisting Simpson needed water, and other people were telling him to move back and get out of the way.

Lively actually started out that day, which was May 3, being distraught. When he arrived at his work site, a construction job in Ettersburg, he got out of his truck with tool bags in hand and walked up to his boss and a co-worker.

“He asked if we even fucking wanted him there,” former co-worker Jordan Miclette testified. Miclette said Lively then walked up to Shane (the construction foreman) and asked him the same question.

Shane responded “If you have somewhere else to be, by all means.”

Lively’s response, Miclette recalled, was “Like go kill my fucking neighbor?”

According to Miclette and his boss Timothy “Max” Mahony, Lively often ranted about how the Simpsons were stealing from him and terrorizing his family. He reportedly said on more than one occasion that he was going to kill his neighbor or neighbors.

On May 3 he was particularly riled because he thought Jesse Simpson had stolen items the night before from his house, his truck or both. According to testimony he borrowed his boss’s cellphone to call the Sheriff’s Department, then drove into Garberville to make a report in person. When he came back he was far from satisfied.

“He said they (the neighbors) were getting away with it and that the cops were on the neighbors’ side,” Miclette recalled.

Then Lively asked his boss Max Mahony to drive him to Shelter Cove, because he wanted to clear valuables out of his house and was afraid to go alone. Mahony complied.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Russ Clanton, Miclette said he believed Mahony went just because he is “a very nice person” and Lively was distraught.

Clanton has cast doubt on that, saying the “valuables” were hash and marijuana and Mahony was Lively’s partner in crime. Mahony denied that when testifying yesterday.

When Lively and Mahony returned with Lively’s belongings, Lively reportedly took out a compound bow and spent about 30 minutes taking practice shots at a paper plate. Then he left for the day. Mahony said Lively told them when he left that if anything happened to him, to sell his belongings and give the money to his kids.

Lively told CHP Officer Lopez that he left work, went to the Shelter Cove store and thought he’d drive around the block before heading home. While doing so he saw Jesse Simpson weed-whacking at the intersection of Eileen Road and Debbie Lane. Lively stopped his truck when he saw Simpson.

“They made eye contact,” Lopez said Lively told him. Then, Lively reportedly said, he “hit the gas and peeled out,” not intending to stop and not applying the brakes until after his truck hit Simpson.

He also said he didn’t hit Simpson on purpose.

Testimony was scheduled to continue today before Judge Christopher Wilson.


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