“Dolores knew he was going to kill her.”
That's how Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker began his closing statement Monday in the trial of Joseph Dixon, charged with second-degree murder in the November 2011 death of Dolores Warner at her home in Gibson.
“This was a crime of rage and anger,” Baker said.
The case is now in the hands of the jury, who deliberated for about one and a half hours before being sent home for the day by Judge Peter Bradstreet.
Prosecutors say late on Nov. 22 or early Nov. 23, Dixon, in a jealous rage over Warner's real or imagined flirtations with other men, delivered a savage beating that left Warner with 20 broken ribs, bruises covering nearly her whole body, and a broken neck.
“This beating is a Joe Dixon beating,” Baker said.
He laid out a series of statements from earlier witnesses that he said indicates that Warner's injuries match a pattern of injuries she allegedly had suffered at Dixon's hands in the past.
He also revisited statements Dixon gave to police after he was arrested Nov. 25, 2011, in which he, hypothetically, described how he might have injured or killed her, if he had done so.
“He told us about each of those injuries,” Baker said.
He said police and prosecutors eliminated other possible suspects or scenarios, including a robbery gone bad.
Police said there was nothing missing from the home, and no sign of sexual assault.
“We know he did it because ... nobody else makes sense,” Baker said.
He also noted that Dixon would often meet his friend at Warner's house before going out trapping, sometimes having a cup of coffee before leaving for the day. But after Warner was allegedly murdered, Dixon walked down the road to meet his friend before the friend got to her College Avenue home.
Baker closed with discussion of the blood and DNA evidence, which he said was important, but not necessary for the jury to conclude the Dixon is guilty.
“Science doesn't do your job for you in this case, but it confirms your decision in the end,” he said.
Dixon's DNA was found mixed with Warner's on a pair of bloodstained socks found near her body. A witness, who said Dixon told him about the alleged attack, said Dixon claimed he had used socks to protect his hands when he beat Warner.
Analysts at the New York State Police crime lab in Albany also found Warner's DNA in bloodstains on the jacket Dixon was wearing when he was detained by police.
But Dixon's defense attorney, Terrence Baxter, said in his own closing that the prosecution's case is full of holes and inconsistencies.
Page 2 of 2 - “At first glance, it's a pretty compelling argument,” Baxter said.
He noted that prosecution witnesses called to establish a history of domestic violence between Dixon and Warner were not inclined to like his client, and didn't testify to seeing assaults firsthand.
He also noted that prosecutors didn't introduce any medical evidence showing a pattern of abuse.
And he pointed to his own witness, William Crane - Dixon's stepfather - who testified that he never saw any evidence that Warner was afraid of Dixon.
“A person who fears for their life, they're not going to put themselves back in that volatile relationship,” Baxter said.
He said, despite the timeline laid out by the prosecution, they actually have no way to be sure of Warner's time of death, as the medical examiner acknowledged.
The examiner also couldn't identify the source of the blunt force trauma that, along with strangulation, contributed to Warner's death.
Baxter said it was unclear whether Warner's injuries came from a beating as prosecutors allege, or that Dixon had the strength to inflict them with his hands.
He also said they can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she wasn't alive when Dixon left the house.
Baxter dismissed the statements to police that prosecutors considered tantamount to a confession as vague and heavily qualified, and noted that some don't line up with evidence at the scene.
And he questioned the validity of the DNA evidence, saying that prosecutors and the crime lab technicians acknowledge they can't be sure how DNA got to a particular location or how long it had been there.
Baxter returned to a recurring theme of his statements, that a history of violence or a bad temper, even if it exists, doesn't make someone a murderer.
“Just because you have a temper doesn't mean that that will result in the death of another,” he said.
Jurors will resume deliberations in the trial at 9:30 a.m. today in Steuben County Court.