Witnesses claim Kalmio talked
The quadruple murder trial of Omar Mohamed Kalmio, 28, began to wind down during Thursday’s session, which ended before 2 p.m., earlier than expected. Five new witnesses testified and one was recalled to continue the testimony she began Wednesday.
Kalmio is being tried for the Jan. 28, 2011, murders of his former girlfriend, Sabrina Zephier, 19; Sabrina’s mother, Jolene Zephier, 38; Sabrina’s brother, Dylan Zephier, 13; and Jolene’s boyfriend, Jeremy Longie, 22. Each charge is a class AA felony.
“I’m not going to beat around the bush. You’re lying, aren’t you,” defense attorney Kerry Rosenquist asked a witness – whose identity is court protected – during a vigorous cross-examination.
The witness had testified that, while incarcerated in the same cell block as Kalmio in the Ward County Jail, Kalmio told him several things regarding the case. The witness claims that he was told that Kalmio was worried for the welfare of both his infant children, including the daughter he shared with Sabrina. The mother of his infant son wanted to take the child and move to a reservation, but Kalmio was uncomfortable with that. Kalmio was also uncomfortable with the drug and alcohol usage of the Zephier family around his infant daughter. Kalmio was also “fed up,” the witness testified, that the Zephier family was “always hounding him for money” and he couldn’t “take it anymore.”
“It was bothering him for a long time and he was trying to get his baby away” from the families, the testimony continued before revealing that Kalmio claimed he shot the Zephiers and that someone else might have been involved, although he did not hear how Kalmio obtained a gun.
“So after 18 months, or closer to two years, of being incarcerated, one month before his trial (Kalmio) goes up to you as kind of a father figure or his priest-confessor and he told you his whole story. Is that what you want the jury to believe?” Rosenquist asked.
The witness replied that he wasn’t directly told everything, but “heard bits and pieces” and that he overhead Kalmio talking to other inmates.
“I was shocked. I couldn’t even believe he was talking about what was going on,” the witness said.
“So what you’re saying is that everything Omar told you, or everything you imagine he told you, is absolutely true with the exception of the fact that he lied to you about Mr. Longie being in a relationship with Sabrina?” Rosenquist asked the witness as he began to address inaccuracies in the testimony, also suggesting that the witness was “no stranger to the penal system.”
“You know how the system works, don’t you?” Rosenquist said. “You give them a little bit, they give you a little bit.”
Despite denying this allegation it was revealed in questioning with prosecuting Assistant State’s Attorney Kelly Dillon that the witness wouldn’t talk to investigators without the promise of some time off from his current sentence.
Another protected witness testified that he had only known Kalmio “for like four or five days” while working at an oil well-site in Williston, but during that time he overheard some phone calls.
“He was real hysterical and said somebody killed his baby momma,” the witness testified to have overheard during a phone call on the night of the Jan. 28, 2011, deaths.
According to the witness’ testimony, Kalmio revealed several details that were unavailable in official channels – like press releases and media briefings – that early on, which prosecution brought in Capt. Dan Strandberg, who handled media relations for the case, to testify to.
Some of that information was that the victims were shot in the head and that a house pet, “a dog or something,” said the witness, had been shot. It has been well-established in the case that Kalmio was afraid of the larger dog in the trailer home, which was, indeed, shot the night of the murders.
“Very little” information is released during an ongoing investigation, Strandberg testified, because it might taint a potential jury pool and be cause for a change of venue when the case comes to trial. As for information released at the time of the conversation Kalmio had with the defendant the only official news was that the victims died as a result of gunshots, but no specifics were given.
“There was information out there that wasn’t released to the public,” said Glass in his cross-examination of Strandberg. He cited the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter for the dissemination of information outside the official channels. Strandberg agreed that there was.
“Would you also agree … that law enforcement are not the first at the scene? … These crime scenes had other people arriving first,” Glass asked. Strandberg agreed and previous testimonies have been given from the various people who were the first to see the bodies and knew of the circumstances.
“I don’t want a part of this; no alibi, no nothing,” the witness who claims Kalmio told the circumstances of the deaths to had said to Kalmio when police started questioning him and other people working with Kalmio. “I just met you.”
“He wished (Sabrina) was dead,” the witness claims he overheard Kalmio saying in an earlier phone call to Sabrina. He also claims Kalmio was mad that Sabrina wasn’t allowing him access to the child.
“You get indicted and then the pressure comes?” Glass asked the witness, who agreed. The witness claims he feels that his sentence, which he is serving in another state, had lengthened because he hadn’t wanted to testify in the case at first.
Other testimonies included those from Penny Erickson, the commander of Ward County Jail, who testified that the walls of the jail were made out of cinderblocks and that it is, indeed, possible for inmates to talk through them. The testimony was used to back up the testimonies of Elizabeth Lambert and other female inmates who had testified that they could hear Kalmio talking about the murders through the cell block walls. A maintenance closet, with vents, also happened to be located between the cells of Kalmio and Lambert when they were in the jail together, further aiding in the ability to overhear and talk amongst each other.
“The walls are paper thin in there,” testified a woman who had shared a cell with Lambert at the time the alleged statements had been made regarding the murder. “You can hear everything.
When Thursday’s session concluded, Judge Douglas Mattson said that the prospect of a session on Saturday is now “off the table.” More testimony is to be heard in a half-day today with deliberation expected for Monday.