Comfort Inn manager was tasered before she was killed

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | 3:52 p.m. CDT; updated 4:41 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This story has been modified to show that Dwight T. Hayes is on trial for charges of second-degree murder, armed criminal action and first-degree robbery. The previous story misidentified the charges.

COLUMBIA — In the trial of the man accused of robbing and killing a Clark Lane hotel manager last November, Boone County Deputy Medical Examiner Eddie Adelstein testified Wednesday that the victim was tasered before she was shot in the head.

The victim, Cynthia White, was burned and bruised on her lower right forearm — wounds consistent with a direct-contact taser, Adelstein testified. White’s attacker used the stun gun from a close distance to immobilize her before killing her, he testified.

Dwight Tyrell Hayes, 21, is being tried on charges of second-degree murder, armed criminal action and first-degree robbery in White’s Nov. 24, 2007, slaying at the Comfort Inn at 2904 Clark Lane. Hayes was arrested the day after White was killed after he was identified in surveillance video taken from the Hampton Inn during an earlier burglary on Nov. 13. He is scheduled to be tried on the burglary charge on July 1.

In April, Hayes pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, forcible sodomy, forcible rape, four counts of armed criminal action, first-degree robbery and first-degree tampering in connection with the rape and sodomy of a clerk at the same hotel on Nov. 15. The hotel was called the Fairfield Inn at that time.

Adelstein said he concluded that White died from a gunshot to the face between her nose and lip from 1 inch to 18 inches away.

Two Columbia police officers testified about evidence found at the scene of the crime and Hayes’ arrest that suggested he’d used a taser. Officer Jim Watson testified that he found two batteries and a piece of black plastic at the scene of the crime. Detective Jeff Nichols testified that he found a stun gun that was missing batteries and a piece of plastic similar to the one found at the crime scene while searching the residence at 1812 McKee St., where Hayes was arrested.

In earlier testimony, the victim’s son, Ernest White, told the jury about a series of text messages he and his mother exchanged on the night she was killed.

Visibly upset as he testified, Ernest White said he texted his mother about a ring he saw around the moon that night.

“She liked looking at stars and stuff, but she wasn’t really deep in it,” he said.

His mother texted back that she couldn’t remember what her father had said about the ring, so she looked up the phenomenon on the Internet. She texted back that the ring was caused by ice crystals that reflect light off of the moon, he said.

“Thanks, you’re a lot of help,” he said he texted upon receiving her answer.

The last message his mother sent back at 1:36 a.m. said, “Go to bed and get some sleep.”

It was the last time he communicated with his mother, who was found dead after guests at the hotel became concerned after calls to the front desk went unanswered.

In his opening statement earlier on Wednesday, Boone County Chief Prosecutor Dan Knight told the jury that Hayes wasn’t bothered by the crime he had committed. He said that immediately after killing White, Hayes went to Wal-Mart and bought clothes and video games with the money he stole from the hotel.

Public Defender Kevin O’Brien rebuffed Knight’s version of events and instead told the jury that his client was coerced into making incriminating statements about his involvement in the crime.

He said that Hayes “made a statement that conformed to what police wanted him to say.”

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