So many things seemed wrong before Rachel Bauer found her roommate and lifelong friend, Andrew Nesbitt, dead in their Downtown apartment six months ago.
As the trial for Darrick Anderson, charged with killing Nesbitt, started Monday, Bauer testified that Nesbitt hadn’t read a Facebook message she sent him while she was out of town for the weekend. She came home March 27 to find the front door to their North Butler Street apartment unlocked, while “Drew” always locked it.
The kitchen was a mess, and Nesbitt usually left things tidy. There were French fries on a baking sheet, covered in ketchup, in the sink. Nesbitt never ate fries, Bauer said. She could see sunlight coming from his bedroom, she said, when he always kept his room dark.
When she saw Nesbitt’s bare feet on his bed, she ran from the room, she said, and called 911.
“There’s blood all over, he’s half-clothed and his body is freezing cold,” a distraught Bauer told a 911 operator, on a tape of the call played in court.
A jury of 10 women and five men, which includes three alternate jurors, will decide first whether Anderson, 24, of Columbus, is guilty of first-degree intentional homicide for the death of Nesbitt, 46, who was stabbed to death on his bed. If Anderson is found guilty, the jury would decide in a second phase of the two-week trial whether Anderson was suffering from a mental disease or defect at the time that he killed Nesbitt.
In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Matthew Moeser told jurors that after Nesbitt was found dead, a receipt that police found in his apartment led them to Kelley’s Market, 636 W. Washington Ave., where video surveillance picked up Nesbitt with Anderson early on March 27, after Nesbitt had been out for birthday drinks.
More surveillance images from city street cameras tracked Nesbitt and Anderson to Nesbitt’s apartment, where investigators found spots determined by DNA to be Anderson’s blood, along with Anderson’s fingerprint.
Nesbitt was stabbed 41 times and sustained 35 slicing wounds, Moeser said.
Anderson’s lawyer, Tim Kiefer, declined to make an opening statement Monday, and instead deferred it until the defense begins its case later in the trial.
According to court filings, though, Kiefer is likely to claim that Anderson was acting in self-defense when he killed Nesbitt.
As proof, according to a document filed last week, Kiefer wrote that most of the stab and slashing wounds that killed Nesbitt were to the back and side of Nesbitt’s head, while some were to the front of Nesbitt’s head and neck. In addition, he said, Anderson sustained cuts to fingers on his right hand that he said could be defensive wounds.
“Taken together, the injury to Mr. Anderson’s hand and the wounds to the front of Mr. Nesbitt’s body support the following theory,” Kiefer wrote. “That Mr. Nesbitt initially threatened or attacked Mr. Anderson with a knife, causing Mr. Anderson to believe that he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.”
Anderson sustained the wound to his hand while trying to grab the knife away or shield himself, Kiefer wrote, and once Anderson had control of the knife he used it as he struggled with Nesbitt, ultimately killing him using force that was necessary to protect himself.
Photographs of Anderson’s body, taken by Madison police Investigator Clint Spade and shown to the jury Monday, showed little injury to Anderson, other than the deep cuts to his right fingers and a superficial cut to a finger on his left hand.
After his arrest, Moeser told the jury, Anderson claimed that he suffered the deep cuts on his right fingers from dishes that broke as he was washing them.
Anderson, who has been disruptive during recent court appearances, was brought to court shackled to a restraint chair. The chair is being hidden by a skirt around the defendant’s table, and a jacket draped over the back of the restraint chair hides the chair’s push handles.
Anderson is also wearing his blue jail uniform to court, an unusual strategic decision made by Kiefer. Defendants usually wear street clothing when appearing in front of juries.
Kiefer said he decided to have Anderson wear jail garb because of what he fears would be an illusion on the part of jurors that Anderson would simply walk free from the courtroom if they found him not guilty, compelling the jury to find him guilty when perhaps they would not have ordinarily done so.
“This lets the jury know at least implicitly that he’s in custody,” Kiefer said, making them “more comfortable” at reaching a verdict in Anderson’s favor.