Two witnesses who say Briley Piper bragged to them about helping to kill and rob Chester Allan Poage visited Piper’s fellow murderer, Darrell Hoadley, in jail last week, testimony in Piper’s sentencing trial revealed Tuesday.
But Kayla Richards, who was Hoadley’s girlfriend in March 2000 when Hoadley, Piper and Elijah Page beat and stabbed Poage to death, said Hoadley did not attempt to influence her testimony.
Asked why she visited Hoadley twice last week in the Meade County Jail, where he is waiting to testify against Piper, Richards said, “I wanted to ask him … if what he was going to say in court was really the truth or if he was going to lie.”
She said she never did ask Hoadley that question.
Piper pleaded guilty to Poage’s murder in 2001. A jury is now hearing evidence to determine whether he deserves the death penalty, which requires prosecutors to prove the murder was exceptionally cruel and inhuman, that Piper benefited financially from Poage’s death, or that Poage was killed to eliminate him as a witness.
Piper, now 30, was sentenced to death by Judge Warren G. Johnson. He later appealed that sentence. The state Supreme Court overturned the death sentence and said a jury should decide Piper’s fate.
Both Richards, now 28, and Jeff Duex, 27, testified Tuesday that Piper did not seem remorseful when he talked about Poage’s death or about kicking Poage in the face so hard Poage lost consciousness. “He was real animated about it,” Richards said, adding that Piper even laughed.
Duex, who at the time of the killing was a friend of Hoadley, Page and Piper, said Piper had told him more than once that he would like to kill someone “just to see what it would be like.”
Richards and Duex both reported seeing the killers with stereo equipment, a PlayStation videogame system, a Dremel tool and other items, including coins and jewelry, that were stolen from the home Poage shared with his mother and sister. Earlier in Tuesday’s testimony, Poage’s mother, Dottie Poage, and sister Samantha Poage Kirya had identified many of those same items as belonging to them.
After Chester Poage’s body was found near Spearfish in April 2000, Richards, who was then 17, was charged with being an accomplice to murder and with conspiracy to distribute LSD. Through a plea deal with prosecutors, her case was handled in juvenile court.
Both Dottie Poage and Samantha Poage Kirya testified, tearfully at times, about how Chester’s death affected them.
Afterward “I was a lost soul,” Dottie Poage said, relating how she left Spearfish and spent 18 months drifting around without a job. She took up smoking and began drinking heavily. “I was drunk probably every night.”
Poage said she still has problems sleeping, waking most mornings at 3 a.m. – around the time Chester Poage died and about the time his father, David Poage, committed suicide in 1996. “It’s like an alarm clock goes off every night.”
Both Poage and Kirya said they have trouble trusting others now.
“I don’t meet new people,” Kirya said, because she is afraid that “on the inside, they might be like THAT.”
Kirya testified that after a death penalty opponent called her a murderer, she moved to Denver, where she now lives with her husband and two sons.
Kirya said it is hard to see her husband talking daily with one or more of his 11 siblings.
“I’m envious,” she admitted. “I don’t need 11. I just wish that I had my one brother, that I could pick up the phone and talk to him … I just wonder what he would be like. And I will never know.”
Hoadley was convicted of Chester Poage’s murder and is serving life in prison. Page pleaded guilty, was sentenced to death by Johnson, waived appeals and was executed in 2007.
Testimony resumes at 10 a.m. today.