Jury Duty – Part 1

Let me first start by saying there will be no real names or locations given in this, because it would be illegal for me to do so. It’s illegal to discuss a case you’re a juror on outside of the courtroom, much less post about it on a public internet forum. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it.

I was called for jury duty, which began about two weeks ago. I went to the courthouse, had my interview conducted, and a few days later got a call saying I’d be seen selected. The trial started on Wednesday.

What’s more, is that strange things have been happening not only to me, but to a few of the other jurors as well, since the trial started.

The Case

On trial is a man named John Willis. He is charged with the brutal murder of his wife and his sister. John is 32 years old, graduated from Penn State University, and moved to our city for a job as an environmental engineer.

This doesn’t sound too strange when said out loud. But as they say, the devil is in the details. I can only describe the photos of the crime scene, as I obviously don’t have copies of them myself.

Crime scene photo #1

The first photo is easily the most gruesome of the 3 they have printed large and on display. It depicts John’s sister, Erica. She is horribly battered and bloody. What stands out about the photo, though, is where she is. In a hallway of the John Willis’ house, where the crimes took place, it looks as if someone tore out all the drywall from one wall. Then, the wood slats that make up the frame of the wall have all bent snapped in two places: one at the tip, to give it a jagged edge, and once near the middle, bringing that jagged edge down 90 degrees. It’s basically a spike wall. Erica is impaled on these broken slats about two feet off the floor; so high that her slumped over head would be hitting the ceiling if it were upright. It’s incredibly disturbing to look at.

Crime scene photo #2

This photo depicts his late wife, Jessica. Kind of. What happened to Jessica might actually be worse than Erica, all things considered. Jessica’s body is folded up in a suitcase. A small suitcase. The kind that’s about as big as you can have while still calling it a carry-on on a flight. From what I can tell, all of her bones had been broke away from the joints, meaning they were manually snapped in half with force. Her fingers, toes, arms, legs, ribs, everything was broken, without breaking the skin.

She was folded in such a way that the bottom of her mangled feet were flush with her ears, and her arms were bent backwards at the elbow, so her palms were flat on her shoulder blades underneath the rest of her body. It’s absolutely sickening to look at.

Crime scene photo #3

The last display was actually more of an array. It showed the house in the condition it was in after the bodies had been removed. Evidence markers littered the floors and walls, but what was most evident was some kind of substance, I can’t really describe it. It was like chalk dust, but black. Pure black. It was all over a bunch of the house. Inside and out. They haven’t yet revealed to the court what it is.

The array of photos basically shows the bloody house, the hallway that was home to the closed doors of 2 bedrooms and a home office, an open and a closed bathroom, and two attic openings. Upon the revealing of this photo array, I distinctly remember John’s eyes getting wide with concern, and him whispering to his attorney.

John Willis

As I said, John Willis is a 32 year old male, a graduate from Pennsylvania State University, and an environmental engineer. He is a small man, I’d say about 5’8”, maybe 130 pounds. He doesn’t look to me as anyone who has ever been accused of being intimidating.

He was born here, and went to Pennsylvania for school. He then move from Pennsylvania back to this area when he was 24 years old for his masters degree, and met his wife a very short time after. They married 8 months after meeting.

He had always been very close with his sister, especially after their father passed when he turned 20 (their mom passed away from cancer when they were young). The years following their deaths saw them grow much closer than ever before; he let Erica live with him and his wife for the first year of their marriage (by that point she was financially stable enough to get a place of her own again).

By all accounts, John seems like a relatively timid person. He had never been charged with a crime before this, and his only run ins with the law were two citations, one for parking and the other for speeding.

______

It started off like any other court case. Both the defense and the prosecution gave their opening statements, blah blah blah. Then, a complete overview of the events that led to the discovery of the bodies was presented.

The night of the crime

Around 8:30pm, John Willis called the police and informed them that his sister was dead and his wife was missing. They played the 9-1-1 call and in it, John sounded seriously distressed. The problem was, John said he was home the whole time, sitting in his home office, working. He didn’t hear any kind of disturbance. He claims he got up to go to the bathroom and that’s when he found his sister impaled in the hallway.

Police showed up, and after clearing everyone out of the scene, the detectives went around the house looking for anything noteworthy, and came across a suitcase that was zipped up all the way except for a very small portion at the end of the zipper. Inside the suitcase, they found the grotesquely folded up body of Jessica Willis.

After finding no evidence of a break-in, and nothing pointing to an outside party being involved, they placed John under arrest.

_____

At this point, we were let out for the day. But that night, strange things began happening.

First Night

I got to my house around 7:30 pm. As soon as I stepped foot out of my car, I felt a strange feeling, the ever so common scary story trope of “being watched”. I looked around but saw nothing. I went inside and was going to make some dinner when all of my lights flickered. After a few seconds of flickering, they all went out. But even the light from outside went away. It was as if I had gone blind. I fumbled around, trying to find my phone to call 9-1-1, as I thought something was wrong with me.

Suddenly, light flooded into my eyes. It was almost blinding in the reverse way as I had just been. When my eyes adjusted, everything was normal again. The only thing different about my house was that there was black chalk dust all over my dining room table.

______

I went back to the courthouse the next day, and on a few of the other jurors, there were looks of fear and confusion. There was a woman there, Jackie, who looked particularly disheveled. I asked her if she was okay, and she told me what had happened to her the night before.

Jackie’s first night

Jackie was in bed, almost asleep, when she heard her bedroom door creak open. Assuming it was her cat, she ignored the sound. Then she heard it creak closed. She shot up in bed and peered over at her door. She felt that something was in her room with her, but couldn’t see anything. Her cat wasn’t in her room, and she lives alone. Then she heard breathing. Deep, guttural breathing, but like it was attempting to mask its sound. She was curled up in her bed, more afraid than she’d ever been.

She felt the covers get tugged down from the foot of her bed. She closed her eyes and prepared for the worst. She said that after what seemed like an eternity, she heard her door creak open again. She opened her eyes and the feeling of company was gone. Her covers were pulled almost to the end of her bed. She stayed awake, sitting up in bed until morning. When she got up, she saw on her doorknob that there was a “black dust similar to the stuff in the crime scene photos”.

_____

Court that day was postponed until Monday for reasons unbeknownst to us. Nothing has happened to me today so far, but it’s getting dark now, so we’ll see. I’ll report more after court on Monday.

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