Jeffrey Nixon had just injected a syringe full of morphine and headed over to his friends’ apartment, but not before putting another syringe in his pocket for later.
He wanted to avoid coming down on the street, Nixon recalled as he sat at the witness stand on Thursday.
“Coming down is not fun,” Nixon said.
By the time he and his friend Robert Lake had played an hour of video games at Lake’s and Karrolyn Robinson’s apartment, it was almost time to shoot up again. But Nixon wanted to avoid doing it in front of Robinson, who he said would object to his addiction.
Nixon told Lake that he wanted to smoke some pot, and allegedly Lake suggested they ask the upstairs neighbor, Wesley Collins, since he had smoked them out before. Collins agreed to do so, but asked them to come back after he finished his meal.
Nixon, 19, decided he couldn’t wait any more and shot up more morphine in Lake and Robinson’s bathroom before heading upstairs again.
“I was pretty twisted at that point,” Nixon told the jury.
What followed, according to Nixon’s account of the Collins’ murder, was a shocking scene of violence, perpetrated solely by Lake.
Nixon is currently on trial for Collins’ murder. He is accused of beating the 49-year-old Kalispell man to death with a hammer, then dumping his body in the woods outside of town. He is also accused of burglary, robbery and evidence tampering.
Lake has already been sentenced to 110 years for deliberate homicide and other charges in this case, to which he pleaded guilty last March. Lake told the jury that he hit Collins once in the head with a hammer out of self-defense.
On July 14, Nixon told the jury that Lake used two different hammers to kill Collins, and strangled him with a string when tools did not finish the job.
Nixon gave his account of the murder to the jury on the fourth day of trial. It was the third version of the April 12, 2010 event that the jury had heard.
According to Nixon’s account, after Nixon and Lake got to Collins’ apartment the second time, they sat around the older man’s table while he loaded his bong with weed. They passed the bong two full times, Nixon recalls, before they took a break and Collins put the bong on the table.
“As he was … setting the bong on the table, (Lake) struck him on the side of the head with the hammer,” Nixon said.
It was a yellow claw hammer, which Nixon later identified as the same one the jury had seen the day before.
When Lake swung again, the hammer flew from his hand, and he hurried after it. Nixon said Lake struck Collins again, this time on the top of the head, and Collins slumped down between the chair and the table.
“I was not sure that he was dead or not,” Nixon said.
He knew Collins was badly hurt and bleeding, but he said he did nothing to stop the assault.
“I was shocked; I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Nixon said. “It was just out of the blue. (Lake) hit him for no apparent reason.”
Lake also allegedly injected Collins with a syringe full of lidocaine, an anesthetic, after hitting him with the yellow hammer.
Nixon told the jury that he was frightened of Lake and proceeded to do whatever he said, which included checking Collins’ marijuana plants for buds. Once Nixon completed this task, he said he saw Lake pick up a red, mallet-like hammer.
Soon after, Collins allegedly said something that Nixon described as, “Is that all you got?”
The injured man hadn’t moved from the wall where he had slumped down, and Nixon said Lake went over and pulled him down to the floor. Then Lake struck the back of his head a couple times with the red hammer, Nixon said.
“The last time he hit him with the mallet, there was a crunch,” Nixon said.
Lake allegedly told Nixon that Collins was dead, and moved the man’s body partially onto the linoleum in the kitchen.
Then, Collins took a deep breath.
This agitated Lake, Nixon said, and he pulled a string out of his pocket and strangled Collins until Lake was convinced the man was dead.
But after Lake let go, Collins drew another breath.
Nixon said Lake, angered, tied a knot in the string and pulled it tightly around Collins’ neck, finishing the strangulation.
Prosecutors would go on to ask Nixon why he stayed in the apartment during the brutal homicide, and why he did not call the police.
“You (did) not help Mr. Collins,” Deputy County Attorney Lori Adams said.
“No,” Nixon responded.
“I didn’t feel like there was anything I could do,” Nixon said.
However, Nixon did leave the scene to buy a pack of cigarettes at a nearby gas station, which he said was just an excuse to get out of the apartment. While there, he did not contact the police and he eventually went back to the scene.
“You chose to go back to the apartment,” Adams said. “It was your choice to go back.”
Nixon told Adams he felt threatened by Lake and felt his safety would be in jeopardy if he did not return, and that the police would not believe him. He said he had also hoped that what he had seen was a hallucination based on the drugs in his system.
Adams then questioned Nixon’s admission that he had specifically waited to vomit until he was outside of Collins’ apartment.
“You had the presence of mind to say, ‘I better not leave evidence at the crime scene,’” Adams said.
As for the other versions of the murder given by Lake and Nixon’s close friend Nate Shumaker, Nixon said Lake was lying about self-defense and Shumaker was intentionally led astray.
Shumaker testified on July 13 that Nixon had requested to use his truck because he had killed Collins in a burglary gone wrong. However, in court on July 14, Nixon said his friend would not have believed his version of the story and he told Shumaker a lie to protect him from Lake.
Nixon said Lake told him that if Shumaker “freaked out” and went to the police, “we would have two bodies on our hands instead of one.”
Nixon also claimed that he never touched Collins’ body during the cleaning and disposal at Patrick Creek, and that he had no idea how his DNA got onto a glove with Collins’ blood on it.
Nixon admitted that he suggested Patrick Creek as a dumpsite; that he helped clean Collins’ apartment later on; and that he might have taken some pot from Collins’ apartment. He also visited Lake and Robinson’s apartment during the following week.
Police records also have Nixon stating he was a lookout after the murder and that he described himself as an “accessory.”
While on the stand, Nixon was asked if there was anything he’d like to change about the events on April 12, 2010. He said he would have tried to stop Lake.
“It would have been the right thing to do,” Nixon said.
Both the prosecution and the defense rested their cases on Thursday. Closing arguments will be on Friday, followed by jury deliberation.
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