Details of killing revealed
In a pre-sentencing hearing in Nevada County Superior Court Thursday, the prosecution in the Lauren Hayes trial painted a picture of the defendant as a promiscuous stripper who stole from men she slept with and used her sexuality to lure her victim to a violent death.
Jason Risdal – a Cascade Shores man who described his relationship with Hayes as “purely sexual” – testified that she asked him to teach her how to shoot with his 9 mm Ruger handgun approximately one week before Lawrence Leffingwell was shot to death Sept. 5, 2003 at Edward’s Crossing at the Yuba River.
Hayes had been living with Leffingwell periodically for three months leading up to his death, but he had severed their relationship because he suspected her of stealing from him, Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson said.
Despite Hayes’ request to shoot with the 9 mm, Risdal said he taught her how to shoot with a rifle instead.
He said Hayes, whom he met when she was a nude dancer and agreed to have a threesome with him and another woman, asked him several times where he hid the 9 mm before he left for a trip, the day before Leffingwell was killed.
The same gun was determined by the California Department of Justice months later to be the murder weapon.
Risdal’s friend, Crystal Courtney, also testified that Hayes asked her how to use the 9 mm several days before the shooting, when the women got together at Risdal’s house to watch a movie and bake cookies while Risdal was working.
“I cocked it back and showed her the safety features on the side,” Courtney said. “She wanted to go out shooting, but I didn’t know of any shooting ranges in the area.”
Courtney said by the end of the 10-minute lesson, Hayes knew how to chamber the gun and “dry-fire” it, or shoot it without bullets.
In further testimony, Susan Kleinwaks, a former clerk at Bonanza Market in Nevada City, said Hayes showed up to the market shortly before noon the day Leffingwell was killed, asking if Kleinwaks had seen Leffingwell, who was known to frequent the market at least every other day.
Kleinwaks testified she saw Hayes again between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., talking to Leffingwell by his brown Cadillac.
“I heard them discussing a trip to the river,” Kleinwaks said. “(Hayes) said ‘Let’s go to the river to hang out’.”
She said she only heard “bits and pieces” of the conversation, but she thought Hayes may have been asking Leffingwell to leave his wolf-mix dog Iroquois at home when they went to the river.
She said she saw Leffingwell and Hayes leave together in Leffingwell’s Cadillac.
Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson presented evidence that Leffingwell cashed a paycheck for $456.72 at Placer Sierra Bank shortly before 3 p.m.
Later that evening, at around 8 p.m., paint contractor Earnest Armintrout was down by the Yuba River at near Edward’s Crossing off North Bloomfield Road. He testified he heard “an angry male voice,” followed by a gunshot 15 minutes later when he was by his truck.
He said three to four minutes after he heard the shot, he drove toward Nevada City and encountered a woman in her 20’s with long hair. She ran from the turnout where Leffingwell’s body was found and told him her friend had been shot. He said she told him to go for help, and he called 911 as soon as he had cell phone reception near Nevada City.
As investigators processed the crime scene, they found 72 cents in Leffingwell’s pocket.
Leffingwell’s daughter broke into tears as the prosecution flashed pictures of the crime scene on a screen in the front of the courtroom. Leffingwell’s sister, Terry Athanasopulos, comforted the grieving girl, who was clutching a Kleenex box and looking down.
Several days later, Hayes admitted to deputies she was present during the shooting, but that someone else had killed Leffingwell.
Risdal said Hayes showed no indication anything bad had happened when he saw her the next day.
“She seemed happy,” he said. “I found the gun exactly where I had left it.”
She showed him $400 in cash she said she received in a monthly payment from a lawsuit settlement.
Hayes had been awarded settlement money from Denny’s Restaurant chain months before, but the payment was made in one lump sum seven months prior to the killing, Wolfson said.
Several more witnesses called by the prosecution will be heard beginning 9 a.m. Tuesday in Nevada County Superior Court.
To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@the union.com or call 477-4236.
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