By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
The prosecution then turned to the crime itself. Hub Mayer, the tall, gravelly-voiced old homicide detective, testified that he had never had dreams about a case, until this one. Usually, at homicide scenes, he had to contend with patrol officers tramping inside, getting a look at the dead body, and what was strange, Mayer remembers, was that when he arrived at 851 Threadneedle, on the afternoon of June 6, 1986, all the patrol officers were outside.
He found two bags of cookies at the door of Apartment 1007, but no sign of forced entry or robbery. It was just "a normal-type apartment," not the cleanest, but "it looked like everything was in its place, except the bodies." Mayer found them in the bedroom, and sat on the edge of the bed in contemplation. In 17 years as a detective, he saw bodies that had been shot, stabbed, even blown apart. But Annette lay nude on the floor with a deep gash across her throat and slashes to her breasts, and also a strange "slippage" to the skin of her face and vagina that police later determined to be the effect of muriatic acid. Mayer had never come across a corpse in such a pose, spread-eagled, as though "for everyone to see," nor before or since has he ever seen a one-year-old with his throat cut. Lifting the covers beside him, he "jumped up" at the view — and soon joined the officers outside.
Investigators immediately began looking for someone who might have been, as Mayer said, "really mad" at Annette Watson. It was said that after their breakup, Steven See had begun appearing at the restaurant where she worked and also outside her apartment. It seemed that his car was spotted in the parking lot around the time of the killing, though no one got the license number. Searching the car days after the crime, investigators found, among other things, a bottle of lithium for the treatment of See's bipolar disorder, and also a serrated diving knife.
Prosecutor Mia Magness was displaying a photo of this knife when Graber, the defense lawyer, rose to object. The jury was then sent out of the room as Graber asked the judge to remove the knife from evidence. Its only relevance, as he understood it, was that a serrated knife had been used in the murders, and here was a serrated knife. "But then," Graber pointed out, "probably the majority of knives are serrated." Judge Stricklin said she assumed the connection of this particular knife to the crime would soon be made clear. When Magness assured her that it was so, Graber could not be heard to ask what that connection might be, and so Stricklin quickly overruled his objection and allowed the knife.
In the stands, Joe Harris County again whispered affection for this judge and contempt for the defense. "DeGuerin would have had that shit thrown out from the start," said he. "But this guy was court-appointed. He's not forceful enough." And besides, Joe pointed out, Graber hadn't objected to the knife until the jury had already heard about it. "You can't make them forget, can you?"
Much was made of that knife. After the jury filed back in, Magness held the darkly stained, wicked-looking instrument before them, and the judge signaled the bailiff to move closer to See, lest he attempt to reclaim his old possession. James Kay, a retired crime scene investigator, then testified that the knife was "definitely sharp enough to cut human flesh." He also granted that the stains had been caused only by fingerprint powder, that no trace of blood had ever been found upon it. He had spotted only a small piece of hair, which, under questioning from Graber, he admitted could not be linked to the crime.
The knife nonetheless remained in evidence, with no more objections from Graber, and over the coming weeks, the prosecution planned to present "other circumstantial things," prosecutor Denise Bradley told me, such as the photographs of the scratches upon See's arm that looked as though caused by fingernails digging in. None of this had ever been enough to charge See. What had changed in the case was the emergence of a new witness. Over the years, See had engaged in a pattern of "stalking and assaultive behavior toward other women," Bradley said, and when he began having trouble with a particular girlfriend, she had come forth to say he had spoken to her about the murders.
Graber would insist that the new witness was not credible, but it seemed as impossible after the first day of the trial to believe in See's innocence as it was to know his guilt, beyond the shadow of a doubt. See sat through it with his head down, staring at a legal pad, his right hand poised to write but rarely moving. Among those already prepared to convict him was Joe Harris County, who admitted he had gotten "tired of watching these criminals on television get away with every damn thing," and said that "once in a while, it does my heart some good to see them sent away to death or whatever."