TRACY Jean Goodman went into the home of Marton pensioner Mona Morriss a burglar but left a murderer, a High Court jury was told yesterday.
Goodman, 42, of Palmerston North, is accused of killing Mrs Morriss on January 3, 2005 and also of burgling her home. But she denies both charges, saying "not guilty" to each one in a quiet, clear voice when they were put to her at the High Court in Wanganui.
The trial, before Justice Mark Cooper, is set down for four weeks.
Mrs Morriss, 83, was found dead in her home on January 5, 2005, by family members two days after the Crown alleges Goodman entered Mrs Morriss' flat with the intention of burgling it.
In his opening address to the jury, Crown prosecutor Andrew Cameron said Goodman entered the small pensioner flat as a burglar but came out a murderer.
He described how Mrs Morriss was found lying near her bedroom door, covered with bedding and dressed in her day clothes. Her glasses and a yellow dishcloth were found nearby and her handbag and purse were on her bed.
"The pathologist who examined Mrs Morriss found that she had been punched, [with] at least four blows to her face and the left and right side of her head. They are consistent with blows from a fist, probably while she was standing," Mr Cameron said.
"She was then stabbed to death. Six wounds over the left side of her chest& her blouse had been opened before the wounds were inflicted. The scene suggests all the hallmarks of a burglary gone wrong."
Mr Cameron told the jury it was the Crown's belief that after Mrs Morriss was knocked to the ground and probably left unconscious, the accused returned and stabbed Mrs Morriss to death to avoid being recognised.
"Executed is not an emotive word to describe the killing."
Mr Cameron said the six stab wounds were almost symmetrically placed and "clinically executed".
He told the court Goodman was an habitual burglar who, at the time of the killing, was "living on the edge".
She had targeted elderly people in their own homes before, including in Marton where her modus operandi was taking cash and small items she could carry easily.
Crown evidence would be that a black hair found in Mrs Morriss' lounge must have come from someone in Goodman's maternal family.
She also allegedly confessed the killing to a prison inmate telling her she had stabbed Mrs Morriss five or six times in the heart - facts only the killer would know, Mr Cameron said.
Evidence would also include Goodman's journal entries the day after the murder, where she begged the Lord to "please help her".
But defence counsel Mike Antunovich said all the Crown evidence was circumstantial and not enough to convict Goodman of murder.
He said she had not been in Mrs Morriss' house, and had not killed the pensioner.
He said the Crown would have the jury believe it was Goodman who committed the violent and terrifying killing.
"But we say that isn't so. She was not in the flat and the Crown has it wrong."
Mr Antunovich said there was no denying the accused had committed burglaries and targeted the elderly but the jury must put aside any feelings of anger or condemnation they might have about those offences.
"I'm not asking you to like her; just give her a fair go."
Jurors might be appalled at her behaviour, but that was not what they were being asked to judge on.
"It doesn't make her a murderer," he said.
Mr Antunovich said the Crown evidence "might sound good" but would be examined in detail.
It took nearly 45 minutes to select the jury of eight women and four men after many potential jurors were turned away after declaring their association with a number of Crown witnesses.
The trial continues today.
WEBSITE OF THE YEAR
APP OF THE YEAR