Jurors in Massena murder trial shown photos of victim's remains; former inmate testifies Hebert confessed
BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week
CANTON -- Jurors in the Christopher Hebert murder trial today were shown several dozen photos of the skeletal remains of his alleged victim, Lacey Yekel, and a former county jail inmate testified that Hebert admitted the murder to him while they were locked up together.
Hebert is being tried for second-degree murder in connection with Yekel's death. Her remains were discovered in a wooded area near the Massena Industrial Park, off state Route 420, on Aug. 29, 2014.Three state police investigators took the stand Friday afternoon and testified about the scene where the body was discovered and what they found there.
Senior Investigator Brian Cypek and investigators Thomas Houle and Brendan Frost said part of the skeleton was found wrapped in a tarp.
Cypek said he found the first part of the remains, a femur bone. In an eerie scene, at the request of the prosecution he removed one that bone from an evidence bag and showed it to the jury. The room was deathly silent, with not even peoples’ breathing audible, while the bone was displayed. Two of Yekel’s relatives, her mother Bonnie Lamay and cousin Bobbi Jo French, began crying when the remains came out of the bag.
Frost testified that they discovered part of the victim’s remains wrapped in a silver tarp, with many of the bones scattered throughout the woods in a radius of about 80 feet. Photographs showed the skull and what appeared to be several rib bones wrapped in the tarp. Jurors saw pictures of more of Yekel’s ribs, her spinal column, hand and feet bones, a shoulder bone and a clump of hair. They saw photos of both the remains where they were originally found and in a morgue at Albany Medical Center during an autopsy in on Sept. 2, 2014.
The picture of the skull was too much for French to handle, and she left the courtroom until a recess around 3:30 p.m.
The jury also saw photos of Yekel’s clothes, which had been balled up and hidden beneath a rock about 40 feet from the tarp, and her cell phone, which was about 80 feet from the tarp.
At the end of Friday’s proceedings, Judge Jerome Richards scolded Lamay for her reactions to the photos of her daughter’s remains. The judge said defense attorney Peter Dumas noted he could hear comments on the evidentiary photos from the victim's mother, and since the attorney could hear her, then the jury could likely hear her comments.
“I know you’re distraught. If the evidence affects you emotionally … you can’t do it in front of the jury. The jury knows who you are,” Richards said. “If it causes one of the jurors to be unable to sit and we have a mistrial, this process starts all over again.”
The jury heard from James Waite, who testified that while he was incarcerated in the St. Lawrence County jail last fall, Hebert told him he killed Yekel.
Waite told the court that he and Hebert were watching TV and a report on the case came on the news, which included a picture of Yekel. He said Hebert told him "just that she didn't look like that last time he seen her … Basically that he, had something to do with [it].”
He said Hebert told her he beat Yekel and she looked at him during the murder and said “I’m dead, Chris.”
"I just said ‘I don't want to talk about it no more,’" Waite testified.
Dumas under cross examination questioned why Hebert, a man who Waite testified was more of a passing acquaintance, would reveal that to him.
"A person you describe as not a friend, that you've only had a passing relationship with ... while sitting in jail opened up to you about a very serious crime,” Dumas said.
"A few times,” Waite replied.
"Do you know why Mr. Hebert opened up to you?" District Attorney Gary Pasqua asked during re-directed questioning.
"I thought maybe he could trust me,” Waite said.
"He talked about the case a lot with different people,” Pasqua said, to which Waite replied “Yes.”
The trial resumes in St. Lawrence County Court at 9:30 a.m. Monday.