Before members of a search team found the decomposed body of Westlake nurse Kellie O'Sullivan last year, the Thousand Oaks man charged with shooting her three times admitted stealing the woman's truck, a friend of the defendant's testified Wednesday.
But describing a jailhouse phone call he received from Mark Scott Thornton while a massive search for O'Sullivan's body was taking place, Darren Daewale said the man denied ever seeing or harming O'Sullivan.
Daewale said Thornton made only one statement about the victim, whose body would not be discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains for several more days: "I pray every night that she comes up found, wherever that might be."
Daewale's statements came on the first full day of testimony in Thornton's murder trial before a Ventura County Superior Court jury.
Prosecutors hope testimony by Daewale and three other witness called to the stand Wednesday would show the defendant's state of mind before and after O'Sullivan's killing. They also were trying to establish that Thornton had a motive to abduct the 34-year-old victim because he needed her truck to flee the area.
Thornton is accused of kidnaping and murdering O'Sullivan on Sept. 14, 1993. Police say the victim was abducted in front of a Thousand Oaks pet store and taken to the mountains, where she was shot and killed.
Thornton could be sent to the gas chamber if the jury in Judge Charles R. McGrath's courtroom finds him guilty of first-degree murder and the special circumstance that he either robbed or kidnaped the victim.
Other witnesses Wednesday included a man who ate dinner with Thornton at a church catering to the homeless. Robert Moore testified that Thornton told him a day before O'Sullivan's disappearance that he needed a truck to drive to Oregon so he could evade police. Thornton was wanted for a probation violation.
A bank teller testified that she cashed a forged check Thornton wrote to a teen-age friend Sept. 13, 1993. And another teen-ager who knew Thornton told the jury that the defendant told him he was moving that day.
The 18-year-old Daewale, a close friend of Thornton at the time of O'Sullivan's death, said the defendant sounded "whimpery" when he phoned from jail in Reno after being arrested with O'Sullivan's truck.
Thornton was carrying a .38-caliber snub-nosed pistol when he was taken into custody--a gun that matched the bullets used to kill O'Sullivan, prosecutors say.
Daewale said before he got the call from the defendant in jail, he had not talked to Thornton since the day before O'Sullivan's slaying. The defendant told him he stole the truck so he could kidnap his girlfriend. Daewale said Thornton asked him to apologize for him to the girl, Stephanie Campbell.
But Thornton steadfastly denied kidnaping or shooting O'Sullivan, the witness said, even though he admitted taking the woman's truck.
"He said that he saw it with the keys, and he just took it," said Daewale, who also testified that he had been the recipient of a number of stolen gifts from the defendant--including a camera, a fish tank and a compact-disc player.