Audio of fatal shooting of woman and her lover played in court hearing
Published at | Updated at
POCATELLO — After two days, and testimony from more than 20 witnesses, Jesse Patrick Leigh was bound over to district court Wednesday.
Forty-year-old Leigh is charged with two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of his estranged wife, 41-year-old Jennifer Leigh, and her boyfriend, 21-year-old Timothy Hunt. He will be arraigned in district court on both counts after Magistrate Judge Scott Axline determined that — following a preliminary hearing that spanned roughly 13 hours — the prosecution has presented enough evidence to determine probable cause.
Leigh had also been charged with a felony for intentionally discharging a firearm into an occupied building, but that charge was dismissed without prejudice.
Day two of a preliminary hearing in the case against Jesse was highlighted by an audio recording of the incident that apparently led to two deaths.
That recording was introduced by the prosecution team at Wednesday’s hearing and was entered into evidence. It was taken from an audio recorder the family found in the house two days after the shooting.
The recording is around 5 and a half minutes, starting just before midnight on Oct. 15. A segment of that recording, 2 and a half minutes long, includes a brief argument and what is believed to be seven gunshots.
“The killing of Jennifer Leigh and Timothy Hunt was captured on that recording,” Pocatello police detective Rick Sampson said of the audio recording. “Nothing that I heard indicated that what happened was lawful.”
In the recording, a woman and child, identified by family members as Jennifer and her then-7-year-old son, can be heard entering the home, both saying “got it” after apparently getting through a door supported with a kickbar — a device used to barricade a closed door.
According to witness testimony provided by several officers who were involved in the investigation of the deaths, the mother and son had entered the home after kicking through a kickbar. Hunt came in afterward.
Once inside, Jennifer can be heard claiming the home. As pointed out by defense attorney Ashley Lavallee and confirmed by Sampson, Jennifer says, “This is my house, the Nazi’s house.” Jennifer can then be heard, in an apparent interaction with Jesse, “Weird how you’re f***ing laying there. Weird how you were just texting a second ago.”
According to text messages between Jesse and Jennifer presented in court, messages were exchanged between the two up to the minutes preceding the shootings.
A thump can be heard before the interaction. Given previous testimony and forensic interview with the son of Jesse and Jennifer, Lavallee asked if Sampson believed the sound to be that of Jennifer kicking Jesse — to which he responded in the affirmative.
Sampson, a Peace Officers Standards and Training-certified firearms instructor, testified to hearing, along with Jesse’s voice, the sound of a hammer being cocked on a double-action handgun simultaneously with the sound of what is believed to be Jennifer and the boy kicking through the door.
After the thump believed to be the sound of Jennifer kicking Jesse, the two engaged in a brief exchange in which Jesse asks what Jennifer is doing.
Jennifer can be heard saying, “Don’t yell; my son is here.”
She then exclaims, “Oh my God.”
That is followed by several gunshots.
Jesse is then heard yelling, “You f***ing b****. What.”
This is followed by some additional thumping, then silence.
Before playing the recording, Judge Axline told those in attendance that the recording may be difficult to hear, particularly to the loved ones of Jennifer and Hunt. Despite his invitation to leave the courtroom and return following the recording, none of those in the room left.
Several family members and loved ones in the courtroom were unable to hold back their emotions as the audio played. Jesse himself also appeared to be emotional as his head and shoulders were slumped over.
Inserting his training and experience into the testimony, Sampson told the court about pre-assault indicators, used by police officers to determine a potential fight-or-flight response. Deep breathing was among the actions Sampson had been trained to recognize when dealing with someone who may be preparing to attack. Sampson noted Jesse’s deep breathing before what he counted as seven gunshots as a sign that he was preparing to commit an assault.
Lavallee argued that this stance was the detective’s unfounded conclusion, saying that the breathing may have been a sign that Jesse was attempting to remain calm through an aggressive argument.
As Lavallee continued her cross-examination of the detective, she pointed to the fact that the recording began with a misdemeanor malicious injury to property by Jennifer. Jennifer then makes reference to herself being a Nazi and, according to Lavallee, checked to make sure the video system in the home was not recording. Her argument apparently was that Jesse was put in a position to defend himself.
Sampson argued that the fact that Jesse can be heard saying something then cocking his handgun as Jennifer is forcing entry, and that the deep breathing immediately preceded a violent act proved that it was pre-assault action.
In closing arguments, Prosecuting Attorney Erin Tognetti requested that Axline bind Jesse over to district court, saying that the prosecution had proven the existence of evidence showing willful, deliberate and premeditated murder.
Defending that statement, Tognetti pointed to two things in particular: first, the testimony of Sampson, saying that the well-trained detective heard Jesse say “what the f***” and cock the hammer on his gun as Jennifer and her son were banging on the door. Additionally, Tognetti addressed the text exchange, which included one message in which Jennifer referenced being locked out of her own home, then another in which Jesse told Jennifer not to allow their son to enter the home first.
The idea that he was sleeping, Tognetti said, was a ruse.
“He was awake,” she said. “He was awake, and he was waiting.”
Even if Jesse had been asleep, Tognetti continued, Jennifer, a legal resident of the home, had the right to be in the home. And a single kick, she said, did not present Jesse with the right to defend himself with deadly force.
The killings were both deliberate and willful, she said, proven by the fact that Jesse shot Jennifer in the head, then shot Hunt multiple times as he was trying to run away.
As for premeditation, Tognetti said that Jesse asking that his son not be the first through the door and cocking his gun as his wife and son approached dismissed the possibility that the shootings were reactionary.
In his closing argument, Chief Public Defender David Martinez requested the court bind Jesse over on the charges of voluntary manslaughter, claiming that evidence did not show premeditation.
He called the prosecution’s evidence a “retrograde thinking” and “retrograde analysis.”
But Axline determined that the evidence presented created probable cause for premeditation.
A date for district court arraignment was not announced at the hearing, nor was the identity of the judge who will preside over further court proceedings.
If he is found guilty on both counts of murder, Jesse will face up to life in prison for each.