Jury selection and opening arguments began Monday in Highland County Common Pleas Court in a murder and rape case against James Carver, accused in the February shooting death of 33-year-old Wilmington resident Heather Camp.
Carver, 40, of New Vienna, allegedly beat Camp, shot her in the chest at close range on Feb. 17 in Highland, had sex with her as she was bleeding out, and refused to take her to the hospital.
Camp died nearly two days after she was shot, according to a bill of particulars filed by the Highland County Prosecutor’s Office. Carver was arrested three days after the alleged shooting.
The bill says Carver admitted to beating Camp, shooting her and having sex with her, although he maintained that the shooting was accidental as he was aiming the gun at her to intimidate her.
Carver is charged with murder, rape, having weapons under disability, domestic violence and tampering with evidence.
From a pool of 52 prospective jurors, a jury of nine women and three men were selected and seated Monday, along with three alternates — two females and one male.
Carver was led into the courtroom by Highland County sheriff deputies. He was wearing a white dress shirt and blue jeans, as opposed to the red jail jumpsuit he wore in previous hearings.
Once the jury was seated, opening arguments began shortly before 1 p.m. with Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Collins painting a picture of the events of Feb. 17, the approximate date of the events leading up to the death of Camp, and the aftermath that resulted in Carver’s capture in Dayton four days later.
Collins told the jury that Carver changed his story six times following his arrest until one version eventually matched up with the evidence that she said combined with prosecution witnesses will prove that Carver fully intended to murder Camp.
Defense attorney John Cornely’s opening argument confirmed the sequence of events presented by Collins, but presented a different motive.
Cornely painted a picture of Carver contacting Roy Dunihue, the second witness to testify Monday afternoon, about getting a gun to use on a man he suspected of having a sexual relationship with Camp.
Cornely said that when Carver and Camp were in his 2002 Trailblazer, Carver told her of his intentions, Camp reached for the gun, and it went off accidentally, with a bullet hitting her in the chest.
The “accidental shooting,” Cornely said, caused a wound the size of a “cigarette burn.” He told the jury that it was Camp that didn’t want to go to the hospital because of prior warrants.
However, it was disclosed in later testimony that Carver’s original explanation was that someone had tried to shoot him while he was in the Trailblazer, but a bullet instead hit Camp.
Six of the prosecution’s expected 15 witnesses offered graphic, sometimes emotional testimony with an acquaintance of Camp and the day’s first witness, Tyler Lawrence, telling the court that he drove Camp to El Dorado’s restaurant in Wilmington to meet Carver, adding that he dropped her off outside the Mexican restaurant due to “bad blood” between he and Carver.
Dunihue said he provided the firearm used in the crime — a .22 caliber Ruger pistol.
Dunihue said he got the gun from a friend and personally delivered it to Carver, who was with Camp in the driveway of Dunihue’s home in Highland, where the shooting allegedly occurred.
Dunihue said he observed nothing unusual about Camp when he walked back to his house, and did not hear a gunshot. The bill of particulars; however, indicated Carver “did not immediately leave the driveway.”
Dunihue told the court that he found the gun in his truck two days later and returned it to the owner in Fayette County, placing it in a dryer in a barn.
Emotional testimony came from three members of a Greenfield family, whose home Carver brought Camp to on the evening of Feb. 18. All three confirmed Camp was badly beaten and bruised, and barely able to walk.
Kalie Kinnison told the court that Carver and her husband, Robert, helped bring Camp into the home, laying her on a futon in their front room. She said Camp’s eyes were swollen shut with extensive bruising and that her abdomen was swollen.
She said Camp repeated the same narrative that Carver used before, telling her that someone had tried to kill Carver, but shot her instead. Kinnison said she later told police that her husband told her Camp had been found wounded on the side of the road.
Under cross examination, Cornely attempted to discredit Kinnison by pointing out inaccuracies and falsehoods she had given police.
When asked why she didn’t call paramedics when Camp was at her home, Kinnison said she was afraid Carver was a threat to her family and children, and that she felt intimidated.
She said she offered minimal first aid to Camp in the form of washing her wounds with hydrogen peroxide and cotton balls, and that she was the one who found a spent shell casing in Carver’s vehicle when she used it to take her children to school the next day.
Agitated and emotional testimony came from Kalie Kinnison’s mother, Mandy Knisley, who described Camp when she arrived at the Kinnison home as “beaten and very tiny,” adding that her eyes were swollen shut with swollen lips and bleeding from the mouth, pointing out that “she was spitting up blood clots into a McDonald’s cup.”
She said that Camp told her that someone had shot at them in Carver’s vehicle, and that she had been “grazed” in the attack.
Knisley indicated that Camp didn’t want to go to the hospital due to prior warrants, and that Carver at one point told her if “you go to the hospital you’ll end up in jail.”
Under cross examination, Knisley said she was adamant that Camp be taken to the hospital, although she admitted didn’t get more involved because she had outstanding warrants.
However, she did say Camp eventually asked to be taken to the hospital, saying, “I don’t want to die.”
The final witness called was Robert Kinnison, who admitted to a drug problem and selling drugs for Carver. He said when Carver and Camp showed up at their house, Camp was “beaten up, swollen and bruised,” with Carver again claiming that someone had tried to shoot him and hit Camp instead.
He also admitted he invented the story of Camp being found shot on the side of the road.
According to testimony, early on the morning of Feb. 19, Carver and Robert Kinnison carried Camp to Carver’s vehicle so she could be taken to Greenfield Area Medical Center. She was quickly dropped her off and Robert Kinnison returned home, fearful because Carver was at his home with his wife and children.
Robert Kinnison also testified that Carver told him “to get rid of the shell casing” his wife found in the Trailblazer.
Witness testimony and evidence in the case is scheduled to continue Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. Proceedings are starting later than normal because Collins is scheduled to argue a case before the Ohio Supreme Court in Columbus Tuesday morning.
Coss said he expects the final presentation of witnesses and evidence and closing arguments will take place Wednesday or early Thursday, with the case then going to the jury.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.