Cherry Walker's Stepmother Takes Stand in Cargill Murder Trial
By DAYNA WORCHEL
The stepmother of a Tyler woman found dead and partially burned almost two years ago in a remote area of Smith County said she knew something was wrong when her mentally challenged stepdaughter did not show up for church.
Rueon Walker, married to Cherry Walker's father, Gethry Walker, began to cry as she testified Friday for the prosecution about how she and her husband tried calling Ms. Walker on June 20, 2010, which was Father's Day. After repeated attempts to reach her stepdaughter by phone after church, Mrs. Walker and her husband went to the victim's apartment.
"Everything was in disarray -- I got a feeling things weren't right," Mrs. Walker said as she cried on the witness stand, saying that it was hard for her to testify.
She said it was not like her stepdaughter to leave an untidy home.
Paula Wheeler, Ms. Walker's caregiver, had testified earlier that Ms. Walker "was a very clean person," always taking extra care to keep her apartment clean.
The testimony came at the end of the first week in the capital murder trial of Kimberly Diane Cargill, 45. Ms. Cargill is accused of killing Ms. Walker after Ms. Walker went missing June 18, 2010. Authorities discovered Ms. Walker's partially burned body on County Road 2191 outside of Whitehouse on June 29, 2010.
Ms. Cargill faces the death penalty if convicted. The trial is expected to last another five weeks in the Smith County 241st District Court.
Two of the defendant's former husbands also testified about the difficulty they had in each of their relationships with her. Brian Cargill, who has custody of his now-17-year-old son with the defendant, said their relationship was "not a good one." The two were married in 1993 and divorced in 1995.
He testified in response to questioning from prosecutor April Sikes that the two were not friends and did not talk unless the topic involved their son. According to phone records, Ms. Cargill attempted to reach Cargill or the couple's son 11 or 12 times on June 18, 2010.
Cargill, who lives in Richardson, said he never returned the phone messages or texts from his former wife asking him to testify in the child custody hearing between her and another of her former husbands, Forrest Garner.
Cargill testified that he got along well with Ms. Cargill's mother, Rachel Wilson, who now has custody of the son of Garner and the defendant.
Garner testified that he lived in the same apartment complex as Ms. Walker, yet never knew that the defendant brought their young son there. He said he was on good terms with the defendant until after June 3, 2010, when he learned that his son was being taken to Ms. Walker for babysitting. Garner said he did not know Ms. Walker.
He said he was seeking partial custody of the now-7-year-old boy, and that Ms. Cargill's mother also was seeking partial custody. The hearing had been set for June 23, 2010, in Judge Carole Clark's family court. Garner and the defendant were married from 2005 to 2006.
Earlier on Friday, Huma Nasir, a forensic DNA analyst at Orchid Cellmark, a private lab in Dallas, said Ms. Cargill could not be excluded as a contributor of the DNA material found on an empty creamer container, which was near Ms. Walker's body when it was discovered.
The chances that someone else other than Ms. Cargill was the source of the DNA were 1 in 226,000, Ms. Nasir told the jury. She added that fire also can destroy DNA. Ms. Walker's body was partially burned when it was discovered.
Romy Franco, another DNA analyst, performed tests on the hair strand discovered on the front passenger seat of Ms. Cargill's vehicle. She testified that Ms. Walker could not be excluded as a contributor of DNA for the hair.
Defense attorney Brett Harrison asked Ms. Franco whether she knew any of the facts of the case when she tested the hair to see whether it was a match for Ms. Walker's DNA. He asked Ms. Franco whether she had talked to law enforcement to get more information about the hair before she tested it.
She replied that she did not.
Judge Jack Skeen Jr. also ruled before the trial began May 4 that Smith County deputies had probable cause to search the contents of Ms. Cargill's vehicle and her home on June 23, 2010.
He made the ruling because of a motion filed by defense attorneys. It was made outside the presence of the jury.
Smith County Deputy Theresa Smith testified Thursday evening after the jury left that she had been instructed by detectives to observe Ms. Cargill as she left her home in her vehicle on the night authorities were searching her home.
Deputy Smith was told to stop Ms. Cargill if she committed any traffic violations and to seize the defendant's cellphone.
Deputy Smith saw Ms. Cargill run a stop sign, the deputy stopped her and seized her phone as she was instructed, Smith testified. In court, several detectives said they did not search Ms. Cargill's home or car without a warrant.
Testimony continues Monday.