KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - Besham Sugrim's wife and daughter provided dramatic testimony Friday in his murder trial for allegedly killing a Kalamazoo prostitute in 2003.
Sugrim's daughter, 11, who never cried while on the witness stand, told the jury her father beat her and her brother on a regular basis, often for the smallest of issues. Once he took her to the garage and shaved her head because she had lice.
She described the beating she took after she was not able to get the family's German Shepherd to submit to her, and told how she watched her father shoot and kill two other dogs. She also said he killed a parrot that was left in the home by a family friend.
Sugrim was seen wiping tears from his eyes when the couples' daughter took the stand.
Then his wife - Bernadette Sugrim took the stand. Both the prosecution and defense said her testimony in the case is crucial.
Bernadette Sugrim said her husband admitted to killing Linda Gibson in 2003 and she said he admitted to killing another man in New York state in 1995.
He asked her to keep his secret and out of fear she did--at least until Sugrim was behind bars for the abuse of the couples' daughter. When Sugrim was arrested in 2011 for beating his daughter, Bernadette told authorities Besham told her, in 2003, that he killed Linda Gibson in Kalamazoo. But he threatened her and their children if she told anyone, she said.
"He brought me out back on the porch and he told me I have done something really bad," said Bernadette Sugrim. "I killed somebody. I killed a woman and then he wanted me to be supportive of that."
And for more than seven years she never told a soul what her husband had told her about Linda Gibson.
"He told me he stabbed her in the back of the van and that he bleached the van and her body and then he dumped her body," said Bernadette.
She told the jury a tale of a twisted relationship. Her husband, she says, was abusive, controlling and manipulative,
On the stand, Bernadette said she and her family had to live up to his expectation or "somebody would get hurt." She corroborated her daughter's account of two dogs being shot in the backyard in front of the whole family. She also said Besham strangled another dog for nipping at her daughter. He said it was because the dogs were untrainable, but Bernadette said he expected the dogs to be human.
Once, she said, she didn't answer her cell phone. Besham took her into the backyard after he smashed her phone and pointed a gun at her.
"I was afraid he would kill us all," said Bernadette.
She lived in constant fear for the 17 years they were married, she said.
Earlier in the day, a friend of Sugrim's testified. Mike Hyde, who has known him since middle school in New York, lived for a time with the Sugrims in Kalamazoo. Hyde said Sugrim was violent, and said he saw Sugrim smash a new computer monitor and destroy a printer with an axe.
For the family of Linda Gibson the trial has been long and difficult, but they are in agreement about what they want.
We hope the evidence points to whoever did it - whoever did it and that they put them away for the rest of their life," said Bill Gibson, the victim's uncle.
The trial continues, and 24 Hour News 8 will provide updates as developments occur.
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