Thursday, February 27, 2014

Testimony begins in trial of pair accused in slaying of 90-year-old San Bernardino woman

By  Lori Fowler, The Sun

SAN BERNARDINO >> On Sept. 15, 2005, Josephine Kelley’s hands and feet were bound with tape and a pillowcase was placed over her head.

And that’s how the 90-year-old woman was discovered when her daughter, Susan Hassett, came home.

“She looked like she was sleeping,” said Susan, who testified on the first day of trial for the people suspected of killing her mother. “But I knew she wasn’t because she wouldn’t answer me.”

Hassett left work about 3:30 p.m. that day and drove back to her home in the 2800 block of Muscupiabi Drive, which she shared with her husband, son, and mother.

When Susan walked into the house, she saw her mother’s purse on the floor. It had been emptied out and the contents of the purse were spread out around it. The house had been ransacked.

Susan started to call her mother’s name, but got no response. When she looked up she could see that the patio door was open. She ran to her mother’s room and found Kelley lying on the bed — bound and motionless. Susan said she removed the pillowcase from her mother’s head and called 9-1-1.

Later, it was determined that Kelley had died from asphyxiation.

Michael Mitchell and Kiesha Smith, both of San Bernardino, have been charged in the death of Kelley.

A third defendant, Sherry Beck, took a plea bargain in December. She agreed to serve 17 years in prison on a number of charges, including manslaughter, Deputy District
Attorney Andrew Turk said Wednesday during opening statements in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Per the terms of her agreement, Beck is expected to testify in the trial.

Beck and Derrick Hassett, Kelley’s adult grandson, knew each other. And Derrick Hassett had a checkered past, Turk said.

A few days before the slaying, Beck told Smith and her boyfriend Mitchell that Derrick’s house would be a good place to rob, Turk said.

“She told the others, ‘Derrick’s a jerk. It’d be nice if someone taught him a lesson. They’ve got money and he’s always got drugs,’” Turk told jurors.

On the day of the slaying Beck and another man went over to the house. During that time, Smith came to the house saying she was looking for a lost cat.
She had a conversation with Derrick, then left. Beck left too.

At some point, Derrick and the other man left the house, and Kelley was alone in the house.

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