Pretrial Hearing Reveals Details Of Cold Case Evidence

Pretrial Hearing Reveals Details Of Cold Case Evidence
Published with permission from the Associated Press.

ELK POINT – Secret recordings of an alleged confession, the recollection of the late sheriff's dispatcher and a sister's repressed memories already have been allowed in as evidence against David Lee Lykken, who is charged with killing two Vermillion girls 37 years ago.

Among the possible elements pending: allegations of his mother's involvement; testimony by five women who said Lykken raped and choked them, and an essay by one of the victims.


Most court documents in the case were sealed, so a pretrial motions hearing on Thursday, Jan. 17 was the first public release of some details prosecutors plan to present in March at Lykken's trial.

He has pleaded not guilty to six alternate counts of murder for the disappearance of high school juniors Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson.

Prosecutors accuse Lykken, 53, of killing Miller and Jackson after they were last seen May 29, 1971, driving a 1960 Studebaker Lark on a rural Union County road on their way to a party.

He was 16. They were 17.

Aloysius Black Crow will testify at the trial about secret recordings he said he made of Lykken in March 2006 when they were penitentiary inmates.

Assistant Attorney General Rod Oswald said the tapes constitute an admission because Lykken described how he killed the girls to avoid going to jail.

The transcript indicates Lykken wanted to have sex with one of them but she refused, so he attacked her.

"So to make a long story short, I got what I wanted twice. I can't even describe how mad she made me. That white (expletive) bit me. She tried to run so I, I put my hands around her (expletive) neck and ended her existence," Oswald quoted Lykken as saying.

The prosecutor later read a section of transcript that suggests Lykken was going to kill the other girl in Pipestone, MN, but changed his plans because his brother, who was with him, got cold feet.

"I was going to do her there but my chicken butt brother couldn't go through with it. She said she was at peace. She talked to the Lord and she knew she was going to die. She seen her girlfriend die. What else could she say," Oswald read.

Defense lawyers filed a motion to keep the tapes, notes and transcripts out of the trial but withdrew the request after Black Crow testified – though they'll challenge the evidence's credibility at the trial.

Prosecutors also want to introduce an essay Jackson wrote entitled "A Growing Christian" to demonstrate she was more passive than Miller, who likely was more prone to fight.

"That shows an order in which they probably died or were killed," Oswald said.

Defense lawyer Mike Butler said the essay should not be allowed.

"It's being offered for the emotional force," he told Judge Steven Jensen.

Lykken's lawyers also want to bar a letter Lykken's mother wrote to him on Sept. 9, 2004, one day after he called from prison to discuss being asked by a prison officer whether he killed Miller and Jackson.

"Sorry we hadn't told you. Say nothing, say nothing," Esther Lykken wrote. "Don't know where all this will go. But I'm ready for ending."

Butler said it shouldn't be introduced and does not prove she knows anything.

"It's not somebody covering up a murder. It's a mother telling her son not to talk to people," he said.

Jensen said he'll rule later on the letter and the essay.

The judge asked for more information from the lawyers before deciding whether to allow the testimony of five women who said Lykken physically and sexually abused them.

His former wife and three ex-girlfriends testified Thursday that he choked, strangled, raped and beat them, that they often feared for their safety, and that he stalked them after they tried to end relationships with him. An acquaintance said she refused to date Lykken and he raped her.

The women said the first assault happened about 1977 and the last was in 1990.

Lykken served prison time for a 1983 attack on one of the women in Sioux Falls and is serving a 225-year prison sentence for a 1990 rape on another former girlfriend in Vermillion.

That woman also testified that once during a discussion about family dynamics, Lykken told her about a young girl that was buried on the family farm, which was the source of conflict in the family.

Two searches of that farm near Alcester in 2004 failed to turn up the girls or the Studebaker.

But Lykken's younger sister, Nancy Bell, will be allowed to testify about her memory of seeing Miller, Jackson and a car on the Lykken family farm after they disappeared.

Bell said the girls were not moving and the car was buried on the farm.

Defense lawyers tried to keep out the evidence because Bell has questioned whether the memories are real or dreams. But Jensen concluded that under the law, she is competent.

"It's for the jury's determination as to her believability and memory," he said.

Another witness will be allowed to bolster the prosecutors' allegation that the car was buried in the Lykken livestock yard.

Bonnie Pojunos, who worked at the Union County Sheriff's Office in 1971, said she remembers then-Sheriff Ed Ekern, now deceased, coming back from talking to the Lykkens.

He slumped in his chair and told how the cattle's legs sunk farther into the mud in an area of the yard where the manure had clearly been removed, she said.

Ekern told her he didn't get a warrant because he had to be certain of it and he was afraid for his family, Pojunos said.

"I know that they know what happened to the girls," she recalled him saying.

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