Guilty: Kalmio convicted on all four charges of murder
After roughly three hours of deliberation, the jury in the quadruple murder trial of Omar Mohamed Kalmio, 28, returned a guilty verdict Monday on all four counts of Class AA felony murder at the Ward County Courthouse in Minot.
Kalmio was found guilty of killing Sabrina Zephier, 19, his former girlfriend; Jolene Zephier, 38, Sabrina’s mother; Dillon Zephier, 13, Jolene’s son and Sabrina’s brother; and Jeremy Longie, 22, Jolene’s boyfriend, at two separate locations on Jan. 28, 2011.
“I’m just happy that everything’s done and over with,” said Terri Zephier, the daughter of Jolene and the sister of Sabrina and Dillon. “We can rest in peace now. Finally caught who’s responsible, when it comes down to it in the end. … We knew who it was all along, it’s just the process. It’s really hard having to relive it every single time.”
“That’s the hardest part, waiting; having to sit it out,” Terri said later, as she left the Courthouse.
“I’m really sad. I’m really glad that justice got done for my son, Jeremy, and the Zephiers. He’s behind bars where he won’t be hurting anybody else,”said Jerry Longie after the verdict was read. “He deserved every bit of what he had coming.”
Jerry Longie said the process had been “nail-biting,” sitting in the courtroom every day.
“It was really hard at times and then we kind of relaxed a little bit and then we got called back and it brought back memories,” he said.
The entire trial, including the verdict, went along much more quickly than expected.
Monday was the day for closing arguments, with deliberation intended only to begin that day. The trial had lasted for a week, beginning Jan. 28, “two years to the day” of the murders, as prosecuting Assistant State’s Attorney for Ward County Sean Kasson had defined it in his opening argument that day.
Prosecuting Assistant State’s Attorney for Ward County Kelly Dillon delivered the closing argument, which ran through the entirety of witness testimony to establish that Sabrina, for one, was fearful of Kalmio, that there was an ongoing dispute regarding custody of the child Kalmio shared with Sabrina, that Kalmio had the “means and opportunity” to commit the murders, and that there was circumstantial evidence that Kalmio had procured a gun, among other points.
Dillon’s PowerPoint presentation, which she used to itemize the evidence, raised enough controversy in the eyes of defense attorney Thomas Glass that he motioned for a mistrial due to “borderline prosecutorial misconduct.”
The presentation contained cartoon “circles of red” to indicate blood-splatter and featured a silhouette of an arm with a pistol “at roughly a 45-degree angle” across the slide, described Judge Douglas Mattson for the record. Dillon argued that the images were not suggestive, as Glass had found them to be, but were pertinent to established evidence: that the case involved blood and a gun.
The gun used in the murders was never found.
Mattson denied the motion but required the prosecutors to alter the slides to remove all images that may in some way lead the jury.
“I’m going to break a bottle over your head and leave you for dead,” is what Elizabeth Lambert, who was Sabrina’s roommate at the time of her murder, testified to having heard Kalmio say when Sabrina let her listen into a phone call between the two.
Likewise, Dillon brought up testimonies from several other witnesses who claim to have heard Kalmio make threats either directly to or about Sabrina.
Dillon said that “12 hours is ample time to drive to Minot from Williston, kill these four people and get back,” making a timeline out of the last time someone saw him at a worksite near Williston and the first time someone saw him back there. She brought up two testimonies, one from a truck-driver who saw a truck and someoneone running near Sabrina’s home late at night, and from a man who lived above Kalmio who heard a toilet flush and the exhaust fan run after days of absence in the apartment, to place Kalmio in Minot during those hours.
Also established was Kalmio’s continual lack of emotion during the time of the murders with witnesses and during interviews with law enforcement authorities after the murders.
Kalmio had made Valentine’s Day plans with Roseann “Roxie” Battista less than a month following Sabrina’s death. When Battista asked him why he wasn’t planning a day with Sabrina he calmly replied that she was dead. The night following the murders Kalmio went to a bar with co-workers and “hooked-up” with a woman there, Dillon said.
“Direct evidence,” according to Dillon, came through Kalmio’s alleged conversations with witnesses and police where he said more about the the murders than was publicly available.
In his closing argument, Glass said each piece of evidence was suspect due to inaccuracies presented in testimonies and through investigative mistakes.
Police had shown Larry Klein, the truck-driver, for example, only a photo of the truck Kalmio is suspected to have driven the night of the murders without any photos of different makes and models of vehicles to be used as a control.
Glass particularly picked apart the testimony of the primary protected witness, who was given “consideration” off a year-long sentence for his testimony, and how the things the witness claimed to have heard Kalmio say while in the Ward County Jail together did not match the established facts of the case. One such detail is that the witness had claimed that Kalmio had shot Jeremy and Sabrina when he found them together; in actuality, Jeremy was Jolene’s boyfriend and those two were found shot together in bed.
“Just a month before the trial, the state’s so desperate they pick up a prisoner” who claims he heard Kalmio talking, Glass said. “What we have is a self-serving man on the stand.”
“We have a lot of circumstantial evidence that doesn’t work,” Glass continued before pointing out difficulties in the way the time-line of events fit together.
At 12:45 a.m. the night of the murders, a man who worked with Kalmio checked outside of a “shack-house” at a rig-site and claimed he saw Kalmio, then just 45 minutes later, in Minot, Kalmio’s overhead neighbor heard the toilet beneath him flush. That would not be sufficient time to get from the one point to the other, Glass claimed.
At this point the distracting sounds of children yelling and playing, in shrill voices, could be heard just outside the courtroom. At one point what sounded like a little girl screamed in joy and Mattson had a deputy exit the room to quiet the children. Glass had a glass of water before continuing.
“There is only one verdict in this case,” Glass concluded after claiming the timeline makes it seem as though Kalmio was in multiple places at once, “and that verdict is ‘not guilty.'”
“This is a 14,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and the picture’s not complete without all the pieces,” Dillon said in her response. She said the defense wants certain testimonies from witnesses known previously to have lied to police disregarded, but that all these testimonies are needed to see the full picture.
No date has been set for Kalmio’s sentencing, although Kasson said he believes it will take place at some point in April, following a pre-sentencing investigation and other work to be done by the defense attorneys and prosecutors.
The three remaining alternate jurors, all women, were pulled prior to closing arguments, leaving the final jury with five women and seven men.