The jury of 7 men and 5 women will begin deliberations Saturday morning in a trial that has consumed four full days of testimony in a case that could put a man in prison for the rest of his natural life.
Bill Warren, 38, of North Manchester, is accused of criminal confinement, sexual assault and intimidation and is facing a sentence of up to 400 years if found guilty on all 27 felony charges.
In this, the fourth and final day of the trial, Warren took the stand in his own defense recounting his once close relationship with his alleged female victim – whom we are calling only K.W. – and her young daughter.
Warren first spoke of his love for the woman’s daughter, who was just 3 years old at the time of the Aug. 29-30, 2010, alleged incident. “I called her Sweat Pea,” he said, showing a far different side of a man referred to as “demonic” by his accuser. At times, Warren covered his face with his hands and his voice trembled slightly as he told a version of the events unlike that of K.W.’s.
On the night of Aug. 29 and the early morning hours of Aug. 30, the only part of Warren’s story that paralleled his accuser’s was that the two agreed to meet at the junction of SRs 13 and 14 in southern Kosciusko County.
Under questioning from his attorney, Alan J. Zimmerman, Warren said he received a call from K.W. about noon on Aug. 29, 2010, saying she needed to talk to him. He said they met up during the day and she asked him to help her come up with money to go to Tennessee.
According to Warren, K.W. told him that her ex-husband was getting out of prison and would cause problems so she wanted to move. “She was wanting me to help her get money to get away,” he explained, but said she did not appear angry or upset when he said he had no money to give her.
Warren said he went back home but became bored in the mid-to late-afternoon hours so he left his home and drove to Laketon, Ind., to visit a couple of friends. He returned home in the early evening hours when he received a text from K.W. saying she needed to talk to him.
“I said, ‘Again?’ I had already talked to her earlier,” Warren explained. He recounted her saying she was going riding with a male friend on his new “crotch rocket” until about 10 p.m. but wanted to meet Warren after that at her mom’s house. “I don’t like going to her mom’s house; I’m not comfortable there,” he added. “She said OK and told me to meet her at 13 and 14.”
Warren could not recall the exact time he met K.W. at the junction of the two state highways, but surmised it was right around midnight.
When Warren arrived at SRs 13 and 14, K.W. was in her car waiting for him. Folding his hands in front of him on the witness stand, Warren paused and said, “This right here’s gonna be the rough part for me. I gotta stand up here and break my pride. It feels like I’m telling on someone and I’ve never told on anyone in my life.”
Warren testified that K.W. asked him to go to the store and buy ingredients to make methamphetamine. “I told her, ‘Don’t ask me to ever do that!’ I said I’d ride with her and die for her, but would not help her die. I’m totally against meth and drugs.”
When he said he could not persuade her against doing drugs, he begged her to let him take the little girl and babysit her. “That’s where my voice got very, very stern because she was pulling her daughter in harms way. Regardless of what anyone’s heard in here, I was very concerned with that child’s safety.” Warren shook his head and added, “I don’t like meth labs and children in the same breath.”
Zimmerman asked Warren about having a box cutter and if any of the events K.W. claimed happened actually did. Warren looked right at the jury and said, “No.” He insisted K.W. was never threatened by him, that she never ran from the vehicle or him and he denied putting anyone in the trunk of a car.
“I did tell her to drive, I did,” he added. “I barked. I used a very stern voice. I didn’t care where she drove to.”
Warren said K.W. drove to a cemetery near Liberty Mills where she stopped the car and they sat and talked. “I told her I was sorry I barked at her,” he continued, claiming she acted “normal, no distress, nothing like that.” But when a Wabash County police car drove by, he said K.W. removed something from the glove box of her car and stuffed it down the front of her pants. He said she then drove them to the secluded wooded area.
When the two arrived in the area, Warren said K.W. told him to watch the little girl, got out of the car, retrieved a black bag from the trunk, and began assembling what he described as a one-pot methamphetamine lab. “Then she walked down the lane over a dirt hill,” he explained.
Throughout much of his testimony, Warren spoke directly to the jury describing places and events as he recalled them. He repeatedly denied confining K.W. in the trunk or handcuffing her to a tree.
Zimmerman asked how K.W. came to be naked and Warren said she took her own top off when she allegedly spilled chemicals from the meth manufacturing process on herself. He said she asked him to get her a shirt from the laundry basket that was in her car. “I handed her a brown shirt with a logo on it,” he told the court.
Through his attorney’s questions, Warren explained that he gave K.W. the blue rubber gloves so she wouldn’t burn her hands while manufacturing the methamphetamine.
At one point in the evening, Warren said he went to relieve himself in the woods. When he returned to the car the little girl was gone. “I said, ‘Where is (she)?’ and she said don’t worry about her she’s fine,” he claimed. The defendant said it was he who actually freed the girl from the trunk.
In an initial police interview with the child, she repeatedly told investigators, “Billy was mean.” “He was mean.” “He put me in the trunk.” “He shut me, then he got me out.”
But there was one time when the girl told officers, “Mommy put me in the trunk.” K.W. testified that during the alleged assault on her, Warren grabbed her hand, put it on the trunk and slammed it shut “…so it looked like I did,” she testified.
Warren’s testimony also included claims that after K.W. had done meth throughout the night, she drove back to Warren’s home in North Manchester. There, he said she laid down on his bed and fell asleep after he made her an egg sandwich, again insisting the woman nor her child were ever locked in.
Under cross examination, Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton asked Warren why he fled from Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department Detective Josh Spangle on the afternoon of Aug. 30, 2010, after he drove past the site of the alleged assault. Warren said K.W. threatened him that “they will come after you” and his then 13-year-old son.
Warren told the court he recognized the grey car there that day as that belonging to a friend of K.W.’s who he knew to be involved with methamphetamine and, indicating a threat had been made to him, he said he took off.
“Why didn’t you stop when you saw the police lights?” Hampton asked, to which Warren answered, “I figured I was already in the dog house for doing 90 mph and I’m still not sold that I’m secure.” He added that he came out of the cornfield on his own and surrendered to a police officer.
Hampton continued, “Mr. Warren you are totally against meth. Making it and using it around the little girl, right? And you were begging (K.W.) to not take the girl with her, yes? But when you got to the woods you said she made it and used it for quite a bit of time and you were in the car with the girl. The car was running with the air conditioning on. Why didn’t you just leave?”
“I really don’t have an answer for that,” Warren said, but Zimmerman asked his client if he had legal guardianship or custody of the girl or if the vehicle belonged to him. Warren responded “No” each time.
Hampton also asked why Warren allowed K.W. to drive the car back to North Manchester if she was “higher than a kite” from doing meth all night. The prosecutor also asked about methamphetamine’s side affects which “hype you up, so if she had done meth all night, how did she just lay down and go to sleep (at your house)?”
Warren said he did not have answers for either one of those questions.
Cross examination continued with Hampton asking Warren to read entries from a journal that was located in his vehicle. One of the entries detailed how Warren would have sexual thoughts of his friend. “She had never seen your diary, but those were all hidden feelings you had for her, wasn’t it?” the prosecutor asked. Warren replied, “At first, sir. At first, I found her beautiful, but I found some things that I didn’t agree with or her choices and it severed that warmth for her.”
“Mr. Warren weren’t you convicted for criminal confinement in Wabash County?” Hampton asked, to which the defendant replied, “Yes, that’s true.” Warren pleaded guilty in that case.
Testimony was also given by defense witnesses Dale Pickens, the boyfriend of Warren’s mother; Chris Clark, a cousin of Warren’s; Jeremy Hicks, one of Warren’s neighbors; and Melissa Eilts, a former girlfriend of Warren’s.
Pickens said he was in the house the morning of Aug. 30, 2010, when Warren, K.W. and the little girl were there. He gave details on how the lock to Warren’s bedroom door worked and said it could be unlocked from the inside, but that he never saw the door completely closed.
Hicks and Eilts both testified that they saw Warren and K.W. outside of the house walking toward the car. Both witnesses said at no time did the woman ever appear to be anything but calm.
Jurors submitted a few questions for the defendant. One of those referred to the video interview Warren gave to Det. Spangle the day of his arrest. “In your initial statement you said you hugged (K.W.) when she had her clothes off and you gave her a sweatshirt. Why didn’t you tell us that today?”
Warren answered, “I know I missed a couple of different things today.”
In one of his most memorable statements given during his testimony, Warren told the court that he showed a different side of himself to K.W. that evening for a second time when she allegedly made a threat to have her other male friends go after Warren and his 13-year-old son. “I’m not Howdy Doody, Mr. Rogers or Captain Kangaroo, but I don’t believe in meth and kids and when she threatened my son I told her I will cut their f—king heads off and throw them at her feet. She just froze and looked at me.”
In addressing the allegation that he followed K.W. when she was driving away after she allegedly been freed from Warren, he explained, “I decided to follow her to give her the bag back; just wipe my hands from it and be done with her.” Warren said he took the bag of precursors from his friend’s car in an effort to protect her. Ultimately, he said he disposed of the bag near the Collamer dam in the Eel River.
Once again, referring to an apparent inconsistency from Warren’s initial police interview, Hampton noted that Warren first said, “She didn’t have to” take her clothes off. “She said she didn’t want to have sex, you said you stopped. What did you mean by you stopped?” Warren answered, “There never had been sex.”
The defense and prosecution rested their cases just before 6 p.m. Judge Duane Huffer game the jury a few minutes to discuss when they wanted to go into deliberations and they agreed to begin Saturday morning.
Closing statements will be made beginning at 9 a.m.