Former girlfriend testifies in murder trial

WATERLOO ? The former girlfriend of murder defendant Stanley Liggins testified Thursday that she smelled gasoline in the couple?s maroon Peugeot the morning of Sept. 18, 1990.

Further, Brenda Adams testified that Liggins was quiet and didn?t seem like himself when he came over to her Milan apartment several hours after police found the burning body of Jennifer Lewis, 9, of Rock Island in a field near Jefferson Elementary School, Davenport. Adams, now of Silvis, testified Thursday on the fourth day of Liggins trial in Black Hawk County.

He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Lewis. He was tried and convicted in her death in 1993 and 1995. Both convictions were overturned.

Liggins? third trial, which began Aug. 28 with jury selection, was moved from Scott County to Black Hawk County because of extensive pretrial publicity surrounding the case.

The trial is expected to last four weeks.

Adams testified Thursday that she lived in a Milan apartment with her two daughters in September 1990. Liggins also stayed there, as well as at the Hillside Inn in Rock Island, she said.

Adams said that Liggins had left her apartment in a red Peugeot on the morning of Sept. 17, 1990. The couple bought the car several months earlier and it was driven primarily by Liggins, she said.

Several witnesses have testified that Lewis was seen talking to someone in a similar vehicle about a block away from her 7th Avenue home the night she disappeared. One witness identified Liggins as the driver of the vehicle.

Her stepfather, Joseph ?Ace? Glenn, testified at Liggins? 1995 trial that Lewis? mother, Sheri, had told him that Lewis had gone to a nearby liquor store to buy a pack of gum for Liggins.

The Glenns began to search for her and called 911 when she didn?t come home.

Lewis? body was found near Jefferson around 9 p.m. An autopsy determined that she died from manual strangulation, according to the 1995 trial testimony of forensic pathologist Peter Stephens that was read into the record Thursday.

Stephens, who has since died, testified previously that the girl also had injuries to her pelvic organs and rectum, and that she was alive when she received those injuries.

When questioned in 1995 by Liggins? then-defense attorney, Mike Tobey, Stephens testified that Lewis received the injuries ?definitely within the last 24 hours, most probably within the last 12 hours or less.?

Another witness, Wanda Hughes, testified Thursday that she had been at a house near Jefferson School when she noticed the blaze by the school. She said she saw the fire as she was looking through a kitchen window.

Hughes said she also noticed a car on 10th and Vine streets. She couldn?t see who was driving the car but noted that one of the tail lights seemed brighter than the other.

She said it was the same tail lights and car that she identified in a video played by prosecutors Thursday. It?s also the same car ? a Peugeot ? that prosecutors displayed at Liggins? previous trials.

Adams testified Thursday that Liggins came to her apartment around midnight on Sept. 18, 1990.

?He was quiet, and he wasn?t himself,? she said. ?He just didn?t seem himself.?

Liggins told her he loved her and asked if she would love him no matter what. Adams said she thought that was strange because ?we weren?t like that then.?

She said they went to sleep but didn?t sleep together. Adams said she could not account for his whereabouts during that time.

Around 2 a.m., Adams went out to the Peugeot to get something out of the glove box and then went back to bed.

Liggins was at the apartment when she woke up and she drove him in the Peugeot to the Hillside Inn. She said she noticed the smell of gasoline, which she said was unusual for the car.

Adams said there was a gas can in the trunk of the car of the Peugeot. Adams said she used the can with her previous car because it kept running out of gas.

She said she didn?t keep gas in the can and to her knowledge, there wasn?t any in it several days later when she and Liggins cleaned the Peugeot.

Adams testified that she, Liggins and her daughter had driven to the Glenn home two days before Lewis was killed.

Liggins went inside the house; Adams and her daughter stayed in the car. Lewis, she said, came out of the house and talked to them.

Under questioning from Black Hawk County Public Defender Aaron Hawbaker, Adams said Liggins was not the only person to ever drive the car. She and the sister of one of her daughters had also driven the car.

Adams said she did not recall telling anyone that she could tell that Liggins had been drinking when he came over to her apartment on Sept. 18. She also said she did not remember telling an investigator that when Liggins drank alcohol he got ?stupid.?

Under questioning from Hawbaker, Adams said she didn?t notice gasoline fumes when she went into the car to get something at 2 a.m.

Testimony will continue Monday morning.