KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - Former prostitute Brandi Davis took the stand in the Besham Sugrim murder trial and testified she was with Linda Gibson the night Sugrim allegedly murdered her in 2003.
Davis said she and Gibson were working the streets that night and were given a ride from one spot to another by Sugrim. Instead, she testified, they went "behind the factories" -- near where Gibson's body was later found -- and that when they got out of the van, Sugrim was beating Gibson.
"They both got out and I don't know what was being said, but I heard something. I looked up and Linda was laying on the ground. She was swinging and fighting and yelling at him and I opened the side door of the van and I ran," Davis recounted.
When she left the scene, Davis said, Gibson was still alive.
Davis identified Sugrim as a well-known regular john among the area prostitutes. She said that the prostitutes had given Sugrim the nickname "Race Driver" because he was always dressed in black driver's gloves.
Prosecutors concede there is very little scientific evidence that connects Sugrim to the murder of Gibson. But in the second full day of the trial, the prosecution will try to connect the dots for the jury.
An employee from a Kalamazoo salvage yard took the stand Thursday morning. He testified he knew Sugrim, and that Sugrim asked about the process of destroying a vehicle, but never brought a van to the yard to be crushed.
He was followed by Middletown, NY police officer Chris Duncanson, who took a report of a stolen van from Sugrim in 2003.
Prosecutor Stuart Fenton alleges Sugrim murdered Gibson in a van and then moved her body to an old industrial area, then coerced his wife, Bernadette, to report the van stolen while he went to New York to stay with family. Fenton further contends Sugrim used a friend at a salvage yard to destroy and recycle the van, and that evidence disappeared when the van was destroyed.
At that same time in 2003, Sugrim was enrolled in electrician classes. An instructor for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers then took the stand and testified about the dates Sugrim did not attend class in September and October 2003.
The key witness in the case is his wife, Bernadette Sugrim. She told authorities, after her husband was arrested for beating their daughter in 2011, about the Gibson murder. She said she never talked about what she knew because she feared for her life and the lives of their children. It was only after Sugrim was jailed that she came forward with information.
A Kalamazoo County Sheriff's deputy also took the stand on Thursday to testify about the the charges of child abuse that originally put Sugrim behind bars.
Deputy Mark Caley responded to the scene the night Sugrim was arrested on that charge.
Caley said he learned that Sugrim was forcing the girl to "submit the dog." When the girl could not get the German Shepherd to lie flat, Sugrim tied her to the dog with a belt and made the dog drag her around the yard, Caley testified.
Then Sugrim started hitting the 11-year-old girl with a large stick, Caley said.
"I asked her, 'How many times were you hit?' and she said, 'Over 50,'" Caley said. "Very articulate. She knew what she was saying when she said over 50."
Caley also said he was convinced that Bernadette Sugrim was in fear for her life.
Both the prosecutors and defense admit her testimony is crucial to the case. She may testify as early as Thursday afternoon.
The first day of testimony was very difficult for the Gibson family, who, for the first time ever, saw the pictures of her naked, lifeless body as they were introduced into evidence.
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Assistant Chief Karianne Thomas testified Gibson's body was placed in an effort to shock investigators, and said it was obvious the body had been moved because the stab wounds that killed Gibson should have produced a lot of blood. There was not much at the scene where she was found.
24 Hour News 8 will continue to follow this trial.
We get a brief break from the "lake-effect machine" Friday.
A few flurries occurred Thursday night. Lows held in the teens and the wind relaxed to the 5 to 10 mph range, with 20s at the Lake Michigan.
On Thursday, the medical examiner's office said CMU student Kelly Markatos died as a result of the eating disorder bulimia.