Strohmeyer Friend Saw Him Molest Girl, Classmates Say
David Cash, the UC Berkeley student who waited outside a Nevada casino restroom while his friend Jeremy Strohmeyer murdered a 7-year-old girl, witnessed the teenager molesting the child, two high school classmates have told authorities.
The accounts of Cash’s schoolmates seem likely to intensify campaigns to have Cash criminally charged and thrown out of Berkeley, where he is a sophomore studying nuclear engineering.
In recent months, Cash has been the subject of widespread moral after Strohmeyer told him that he killed Sherrice Iverson in mid-1997, when Cash and Strohmeyer were high school seniors in Long Beach.
In statements to police, sworn testimony to a grand jury and interviews with The Times, Cash has said that he saw Strohmeyer carry the struggling girl into the restroom stall, but left before Strohmeyer sexually assaulted and then strangled her. But two of Cash’s schoolmates say he told them that he saw Strohmeyer molest Sherrice.
One friend, Jeremy Phillips, who lived with Cash this summer, said he went to authorities last month because he feared that Cash would lie about the incident during Strohmeyer’s murder trial, according to an 83-page transcript of an interview with a Clark County, Nev., district attorney’s investigator.
Cash, 19, declined to comment. His attorney, Mark Werksman, said that he had not seen the schoolmates’ statements but that Cash’s legal liability was unaffected.
“David doesn’t bear any criminal liability for what happened,” Werksman said.
Before the trial started, Strohmeyer pleaded guilty last week to the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of Sherrice in the former Primadonna Resort & Casino near the California border. In exchange, Strohmeyer, who faced a possible death penalty, will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Phillips’ description of Cash’s actions matches what another of Cash’s acquaintances told police and The Times last year.
However, Clark County Dist. Atty. Stewart Bell said the information will not lead to criminal charges.
“It doesn’t really change things--it’s not against the law to see a crime occur and not report it,” Bell said. “Cash should have taken some action and had he, this little girl might be alive--but not taking action is a moral transgression that is not against the criminal laws of the state of Nevada.”
Bell--whose office had counted on Cash to be a key witness against Strohmeyer--said “maybe [Cash] saw a little more than kidnapping, maybe he saw a commencement of sexual assault. The only person who knows is Cash. He could have seen all the way through the murder and he still wouldn’t be guilty. Unless you actively aid, you are not guilty.”
Several Nevada lawyers, however, said Bell had more leeway. They said Cash could be prosecuted for perjury because his account to the grand jury did not mention that he saw a sexual assault.
They also suggested that Cash could be charged as an accessory after the fact--the crime of knowing a felony offense has been committed and helping the perpetrator avoid arrest or trial. Punishment ranges from one to five years.
“They could have charged him and should have charged him with accessory after the fact,” said JoNell Thomas, a criminal defense attorney who is a board member of Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice. “If Cash saw the sexual assault and lied about that, hid that knowledge, that would interfere with the state’s ability to prosecute.”
D.A. Denies Deal With Cash
In Cash’s taped statement to police on the day of Strohmeyer’s arrest, he recalled students at school asking about a surveillance video, which aired on the news, that showed Cash and Strohmeyer outside the casino restroom. Cash told police that he said to one friend, “ ‘Look, man, you know what you saw [in the video], I mean, just be quiet.’ ”
The fact that Cash urged anyone to keep silent provides more grounds for a charge, Thomas said.
Mace Yampolsky, a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney, said: “Had the D.A.'s office wanted to charge David Cash, they could have.”
Yampolsky believes that Bell is interpreting the law rigidly because he cut an informal deal with Cash in exchange for his testimony--an assertion that Bell vigorously disputes. Cash attorney Werksman said he had an understanding that “as long as David was truthful and cooperative and no new evidence came forward, he would not be prosecuted.”
Jeremy Phillips, 21, shared his Long Beach studio apartment this summer with Cash, whom he met playing football at Woodrow Wilson High School.
Three days after Cash moved out of his apartment, Phillips, who had earlier called police, met with an investigator for the Clark County district attorney’s office in Long Beach.
Living with his friend, Phillips said, allowed him insight into the teenager he had known for five years. Over the summer, Phillips said, Cash consistently told him the same version of being a witness to the sexual assault--a version that remained unchanged from Cash’s first call to Phillips two days after Sherrice’s murder and before Strohmeyer’s arrest.
“To this day, David gives Strohmeyer the equivalent of a high five for what he did,” Phillips told The Times.
Phillips said he was concerned about how Cash would testify.
“He wanted, his main thing of testifying, he’s going to limit what he says to an extreme,” Phillips told the investigator. “He’s gonna say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, as much as he can. So he basically wishes, he hopes that Strohmeyer gets off. That’s what his main objective is. He wants him to get off.”
Cash shared Strohmeyer’s interest in child pornography and would often look at Strohmeyer’s extensive collection with him before going to parties, according to the transcript of the interview.
“They would look through it, look at it for a couple of minutes, you know, before we went to a party,” the transcript quoted Phillips.
Phillips told investigators that he sought them out after gradually realizing that Cash had told police a different story, and after becoming aware of his friend’s interest in child pornography.
“David is capable of doing this in the future, somewhere down the lines,” Phillips said in a taped conversation with the investigator. “He is capable of doing this himself.”
2 Disturbed by Inaction
Phillips and the other schoolmate, Justin Ware, said Cash told them that he watched Strohmeyer sexually assault Sherrice with his fingers in the casino restroom. Phillips said Cash told him that he had a brief conversation with Strohmeyer as the attack occurred.
Phillips said Cash told him that Strohmeyer explained that he was using his fingers because he was unable to get an erection.
Phillips said it was then that Cash asked Strohmeyer whether Sherrice was sexually aroused. Cash told the grand jury he asked that question after Strohmeyer emerged from the restroom.
Phillips said he believed that Cash stayed less than two minutes in the restroom because he was concerned about surveillance cameras, which recorded his and Strohmeyer’s entry into the restroom.
In the days after the murder and before Strohmeyer’s arrest, Cash and Strohmeyer both discussed the incident with Ware, who was then a junior, a year behind Strohmeyer and Cash at the high school and a friend of Strohmeyer.
Shortly after Strohmeyer was arrested, Ware talked to Las Vegas police about these conversations.
When Cash looked into the stall, he told Ware, “Jeremy had [Sherrice’s] pants down and Dave hit his [Strohmeyer’s] head and said, ‘What are you doing? Get off. What are you doing?’ And Jeremy’s, ‘Oh, I’m in, I’m in,” according to a taped interview with Ware and police.
In a later interview with The Times, Ware was asked if Cash said he saw Strohmeyer sexually assaulting the girl. He answered: “With his fingers, yeah, but he didn’t recall how many fingers or whatever.”
When Strohmeyer and Cash described the incident to Ware, were both clear that Cash had seen the assault?
“Yeah,” said Ware, who played on the school volleyball team with Strohmeyer.
Ware said Cash’s description matched the version he heard from Strohmeyer, who told him that Cash witnessed the molestation.
Both Ware, now 19, and Phillips said they were disturbed by Cash’s inaction. Since Cash moved back to Berkeley, Phillips has changed the lock to his Long Beach apartment. Though Cash has left repeated messages, Phillips doesn’t return his calls. He has also taken a job outside Los Angeles County, without giving Cash his current address or phone number.
“My interest in him has basically deteriorated to nothing,” Phillips said. “I don’t want anything to do with him.”
A detailed report on Jeremy Strohmeyer and the murder of Sherrice Iverson is on The Times’ Web site at https://www.latimes.com/jeremy
* STRONGER LAW BACKED: Council backs strengthening state’s Good Samaritan law to require witnesses to report violent crimes against children. B4