The People of the State of New York
-against-
Edundabiro Ojo

Opening Statements, held at the Jefferson County Court Complex, 163 Arsenal St., Watertown on Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Opening Statement by Kristyna S. Mills, Esq., Chief Assistant District Attorney


Mrs. Mills: May it please the Court.  Defense Counsel.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury.  Thank you very much for your patience during the course of the last two days.  We really appreciate your candor and your honesty.  Jury selection is a very, very important part of our process.  And I speak on behalf of both Mrs. Intschert and myself when I say thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, during the early morning hours of April 2nd, 2005, Shannon St. Croix clocked out of her job at Friendly's Restaurant and was driven by a friend to 735 Cooper St. in the City of Watertown where her sister may have been babysitting.

She left her friend in the vehicle and entered the dark house.  She never came back out.  The friend, Andre Watson, who was waiting in the car for Shannon, saw an individual exit the residence and leave the area.

Mr. Watson waited several minutes for Shannon's return.  When she didn't return, he went to check her.  He entered the dark house and saw her lying in the doorway leading to the residence from the front porch.  He attempted to see if she was alive by nudging her foot with his.  He saw no movement.

After unsuccessfully attempting to find a light switch, he went across the street to call 911.  When the police responded, they found Shannon St. Croix laying in the doorway with her eyes open and her face covered in blood.

Then they found Kelly Exford, Shannon's sister, lying face down in the living room.  Upon rolling her over, they discovered that her throat had been slit and she, too, was covered in blood.

The defendant, Edundabiro Ojo, has been accused by the Jefferson County Grand Jury as being the perpetrator of those crimes.  He currently stands charged with three counts of Murder in the First Degree.  And those are basically based on different theories of the case.  He is further charged with two different counts of Murder in the Second Degree, two counts of Assault in the First Degree, and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree.

With regard to the top count of Murder in the First Degree, to simplify the Indictment, we are alleging that the defendant, being more than 18 years old, and with the intent to cause the death of Kelly Exford, caused Kelly's death by stabbing her multiple times about the head, neck and body, and as part of the same criminal transaction, and with intent to cause either serious physical injury or death to Shannon St. Croix, caused Shannon's death by stabbing her multiple times about the head, neck and body.

We are further alleging that Shannon was not a participant in the criminal transaction.   In other words, Shannon had nothing to with her sister's death, and certainly wasn't a willing participant in her own death.

For the second count of Murder in the First Degree, we are alleging that the defendant, again, being more than 18 years old, with the intent to cause Shannon's death, did so by stabbing her.  And as a part of the same criminal transaction, with intent to either seriously injure or cause Kelly's death, caused Kelly's death by stabbing her.  Again, in that count we are alleging that Kelly was not a participant in the criminal transaction.  She had nothing to do with Shannon's death, and she certainly was not a willing participant in her own death.

The third count of Murder in the First Degree is what is referred to as witness elimination murder.  We are alleging that the defendant, again, being over the age of 18, and with the intent to cause the death of Shannon St. Croix, caused her death by stabbing multiple times and did so because she was a witness to the defendant's involvement in the murder of Kelly Exford, and he wanted to prevent her from being able to testify against him in any future criminal proceeding.

With regard to the two counts of Murder in the Second Degree, we are alleging that the defendant, with the intent to cause the death of Kelly Exford, did so by stabbing her, and further that the defendant, with the intent to cause the death of Shannon St. Croix, did so by stabbing her.

As to the counts alleging Assault in the First Degree, we are alleging that the defendant, with the intent to cause serious physical injury to Kelly Exford, did so by stabbing her repeatedly, causing, among other injuries, deep incisions on both sides of her neck, slicing major blood vessels, completely severing her trachea, her carotid artery and her jugular veins.

With regard to Shannon, we are alleging that the defendant, with the intent to cause her serious physical injury, did so by stabbing her repeatedly, causing a partial severe injury to her right carotid artery, a stab wound to her lung, and deep incisions of the fingers and palm on her right hand.

We are also alleging that the defendant caused injuries to Kelly's hands as well.

As to the count alleging Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree, we are charging that the defendant possessed a knife which is a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon, and with the intent to use that knife unlawfully against Kelly Exford and/or Shannon St. Croix.

We are alleging that all of these events took place on or about the first or second day of April in 2005, the City of Watertown, Jefferson County, State of New York.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Judge is going to instruct you during the course of the trial that the defendant is presumed innocent and remains innocent throughout the trial until such time as the People prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This is a burden that the prosecution readily accepts.  We harbor no doubt that at the conclusion of the evidence in this case, you will have found the defendant has been  stripped of his presumption of innocence and stands before you guilty of his crimes he is charged with.

To prove this case, ladies and gentleman, the People intend to call a multitude of witnesses who will provide you with all of the evidence required to find the defendant guilty.  Initially we expect to call Andre Watson, the friend who dropped Shannon St. Croix off at 735 Cooper Street.  I submit that he is going to tell you that he picked Shannon up at Friendly's Restaurant after her shift on the night in question.

I believe you will hear from witnesses who worked with Shannon at Friendly's as to what time she clocked out and what time she actually left the restaurant.

I anticipate that Mr. Watson will tell you that he drove Shannon over to Cooper Street in the City of Watertown.  I believe that he will tell you that Shannon got out of the car and entered the dark house.   He waited for her in his vehicle.

I believe he will tell you that after a while, a person exited the same door Shannon had gone in and left the scene in a hurried manner.

He will tell you that the person was wearing a desert camouflage coat with the hood up, dark pants and was carrying a black book bag type bag.

I anticipate he will tell you that when Shannon did not return to the vehicle, he went in to check on her.  He will tell you, ladies and gentleman, that he got as far as the door from the front porch into the house when he discovered Shannon's body's laying on the floor.  He will tell you that he could only see her legs and could not see into the darkened house.

I anticipate that he will explain to you that he attempted to get her attention, but got absolutely no response.  I expect him to tell you that he tried to find a light switch by reaching through the door of the residence, but was unsuccessful.  He ran across the street and called 911.

I anticipate, ladies and gentlemen, that you will next hear from a number of police officers who were first responders at the scene that evening.  I expect them to tell you that upon entering the house, they found bloody footprints on the carpet of the porch leading out of the residence.  I expect that you will hear later testimony that those bloody footprints could not have been made by Andre Watson.

I anticipate that the officers will explain how they found Shannon's body in the doorway of 735 Cooper Street, that she was lying face up with her eyes opened and appeared to be covered in blood.

I expect them to tell you that they saw the body Shannon's sister, Kelly Exford, lying in the living room, face down.  I believe they will tell you that when the paramedics rolled her over, there were no obvious signs of life in Kelly.  That she, too, was covered with blood with her eyes fixed open.  And there appeared to be a massive amount of blood on the floor where her head was laying.

I anticipate that they will tell you that they could see that her throat had been sliced open.

I next anticipate that you will hear from various medical personnel who responded to the scene that evening.  I submit that they will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there were no signs of life in either Kelly or Shannon when the responded.  I anticipate that they will briefly tell you about some of the stab wounds that they observed on the girls that night.

I anticipate, ladies and gentlemen, that you will next hear from witnesses who will provide you with some background regarding the nature of the relationship between Kelly Exford and the defendant, Edundabiro Ojo.  I believe they may be able to tell you about the defendant's relationship with Shannon as well.

I expect you will hear from several witnesses who had contact with the defendant on the night in question.  I anticipate that you will hear from April Ostrom, who will tell you that she was friends with the defendant, and saw him between 10:30 and 11:00 on April 1st, 2005.

I anticipate that she will tell you that he was wearing a tight black long sleeve shirt, black pants and light brown Timberland type boots.

I expect her to tell you that the defendant left her residence briefly to buy her some cigarettes.  I anticipate that you will hear that he went to the Sunoco A-Plus to make that purchase, and while there, he saw Jennifer Hall, another friend of his.  Jennifer will also testify and describe for you what the defendant was wearing on the night in question.

You will hear that the defendant returned to April Ostrom's house and left a short time later.  Jennifer Hall, I expect, will tell you that she called the defendant on his cell phone around midnight.  I believe she will tell you that the defendant stated that he wouldn't meet her out, as he was talking to a loved one.

I anticipate that Jennifer will tell you that she attempted to call the defendant later that evening but got no answer on his cell phone.

I believe she will tell you that she next spoke to him the following day, and he indicated that he had learned of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Kelly Exford and her sister, but was not upset, because the military prepared him for death.

I expect that you will hear from Benjamin Ackridge.  I anticipate that he will tell you that the defendant came to his house in the City of Rome during the early morning hours of April 2md, 2005.  I believe he will tell you that the defendant was bleeding from a cut on his hand.  I anticipate he will tell you that the defendant admitted to him that he stabbed Kelly Exford and then stabbed Shannon St. Croix because she walked in on him when he was leaving the scene.

I further anticipate that he will tell you that the defendant borrowed some clothes from him and threw away the black long sleeved shirt he was wearing in Mr. Ackridge's garbage.

I anticipate  that you are going to hear testimony from Dennis Cooper who works with the State Police Forensic Investigation Unit who is going to tell you that he recovered that black long sleeve shirt from the garbage of Mr. Ackridge and sent it to the lab for analysis.

I further anticipate that you will hear from the defendant's fiancee at the time, Kelly Kenta.  I anticipate that she will tell you that when the defendant returned to her house from Rome on April 2nd, 2005, he told her that he had stabbed Kelly repeatedly and slit her throat.  She will tell you that the defendant told her that prior to slicing Kelly's throat, she pleases with him, stating that she would be with him and that she loved him.

I anticipate that she will tell you that the defendant then told her that he was about to leave when Shannon started to come in the door.  I believe that she will tell you that he put his hand on the door and attempted to block Shannon from coming in.  Then I anticipate that she will tell you that he let Shannon in the door and started stabbing her.  I expect that she will tell you that the defendant told her that Shannon also pleaded with him to stop because she had children.

I anticipate that she will tell you that when Shannon went limp, the defendant exited the residence and left after seeing someone in a car outside.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask that you listen to these witnesses very carefully.  We are not asking that you believe what they say on blind faith.  Compare what they are saying with all of the other testimony that you hear in this case.  Compare what they are saying with the physical evidence that you receive during the course of the case.

I believe that if you do, you will find what they are telling you is supported by the other witnesses as well as the physical evidence collected in connection with this case.

I anticipate that if you do carefully analyze what there witnesses are telling you, you will come to the undoubted conclusion that they are speaking the truth about what the defendant told them.

We will then put on statements, ladies and gentlemen, the defendant gave to police officers when they interviews him about the events in question.

I expect Detective Joseph Donoghue of the Watertown City Police Department to tell you that the defendant admitted to picking up Kelly Exford that evening at her house on Mill Street.  I anticipate that he will tell you that the defendant drover her to 735 Cooper Street, as she was babysitting a child that lived there.

I anticipate that Detective Donoghue will tell you that when he told the defendant that Benjamin Ackridge and Kelly Kenta told the police that he had killed the girls, the defendant nodded his head, agreeing with what Detective Donoghue was saying.

I anticipate Detective Donoghue will tell you that the defendant inquired as to what charges he would be facing, what prison he would be going to, and asked whether or not he would be able to grow his hair long.

The detectives then asked the defendant about the knife, indicating that they were concerned that a child or a member of the public would find it and injure themselves.  The defendant told detectives that only a vagabond would be apt to find it, and that it would not be around in a day or two, and that it was about 45 minutes outside the City of Watertown.

Next you will hear from Watertown Police Department's Identifications Officers and members of the State Police Forensic Investigation Unit.  Officers Vance Trapp and Officer Chris Cush of the Watertown City Police Department will tell you that they swabbed some blood on the outside of the exterior door at the scene of the crime.  They will tell you that it was ultimately forwarded to the lab for analysis and comparison.

They will also tell you that they collected the boots that defendant was wearing when he was being questioned at the police station.  I believe that you will learn that these were also sent to the lab for comparison with the bloody footprints.

State Police Investigator Adrian Grenier will tell you about his training in blood splatter analysis and what he could tell from the scene of the crime as to how these girls died.

I believe he will tell you about various items of evidence collected during the investigation, including a Pepsi bottle that was found on the coffee table at the scene of the crime.  I anticipate you will then hear from Investigator Musco Millner with the Forensic Investigations Unit that the defendant's fingerprints were on that Pepsi bottle.

I anticipate that you will also hear from various individuals from the New York State Police Crime Lab in Albany, New York.  You will hear from Gary Veeder that he compared the defendant's boots with the prints left behind at the scene.  I anticipate that he will tell you that the defendant's boots were the same size and had the same treadwear pattern as those bloody footprints left at the scene of the crime.

I further anticipate that you will hear from Urfan Mukhtar who works as a Forensic Scientist in the DNA selection of the Albany lab.  He will tell you that the shirt collected from the garbage at Benjamin Ackridge's house was covered in Shannon and Kelly's blood.

I anticipate that he will further tell you that the defendant's vehicle seized during the investigation had Shannon St. Croix's blood in it.  I believe he will tell you that the blood swab taken from the exterior part of the door contained the defendant's DNA.  He will also tell you that the swab from the lip of the Pepsi bottle contained the defendant's DNA.

I also expect that you will hear from Dr. Samuel Livingstone, the Medical Examiner for Jefferson County.  I anticipate that he will tell you he performed the autopsies on Kelly Exford and Shannon St. Croix.  I expect him to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that Kelly was stabbed in excess of 20 times, and Shannon was stabbed in excess of 30 times.

I anticipate that he will tell you that Kelly suffered two deep lacerations to her neck, severing her carotid artery, her jugular veins and her trachea.  I anticipate he will tell you that Shannon suffered several stab wounds about her face and neck, that the fatal wound extend through her mouth seven inches down to the inside of her neck, partially severing her carotid artery.  I anticipate he will describe for you the extensive defensive wounds that both girls suffered to their hands.

Ladies and gentlemen, I anticipate that at the close of his testimony, you will have no question that the deaths that these girls suffered were intentional, brutal homicides.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask that you ask yourselves this question during the course of the trial: What did these girls do to possibly deserve the death that they suffered?

I submit to you that you will find that answer is nothing.  They were people, they were friends, they were employees, they were moms.  And the defendant took that away from them.

He admitted stabbing them.  He admitted it to Benjamin Ackridge, he admitted it to Kelly Kenta, he admitted to the police.  They found Kelly and Shannon's blood on his shirt, Shannon's blood in his car, and his blood at the scene.

I submit that at the close of this trial, you, too, will have no doubt as to the defendant's guilt of this crime.  And I ask that at the close of this trial, you return a verdict of guilty to each and every count.

Thank you.