Closing arguments, deliberation begin Friday in Jason Lee murder trial
LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - After three days of testimony, prosecutors rested their case against the Lexington County man accused of brutally killing his estranged wife mere weeks before their divorce was set to be finalized.
Lindsey Lee, 31, was found dead in her bathtub by coworkers on March 14, 2017, after she failed to show up for work. Evidence at the scene resembled that of a burglary after the back door to the home was splintered at the frame and the door visibly forced open. Groceries were found strewn across the foyer floor, where prosecutors said Lee was attacked and killed. Surveillance video from a West Columbia Walmart shows the final hour of Lee’s life as she shops for groceries before returning home.
On Thursday, Dr. Janice Ross, who performed Lee’s autopsy, said she found bruising on Lee’s hands, arms, neck, back, and head. One series of small, round-like bruises found on the back of Lee’s left shoulder drew concern from Ross.
“Would that be consistent with someone’s hand on someone’s shoulder as they wrap their arm around someone’s neck?” 11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard asked Ross.
“Yes,” she replied.
Ross said bruising and petechiae around Lee’s eyes indicated she was likely strangled. However, Ross testified Lee died from blood loss associated with a six-inch long cut to her throat. The wound, severing her trachea, according to Ross.
Lee was found by co-workers lying in her bathtub with the water running over her, which likely erased a lot of potential evidence, Ross testified.
Jurors also heard from Graham Hockley, who said he was best friends with Lee and acted as her personal trainer. He first worked as a trainer at Muv Fitness, where he testified Jason Lee was a client.
“He wanted the results but he didn’t want to put in any of the work,” Hockley testified.
Eventually, Hockley opened his own martial arts studio in Lexington and said Lee followed him to his new gym. He said he rarely made mention of his wife but remembers one of the first times Lee spoke of her.
“One day, he said he was worried about her and he wanted her to get skinny,” said Hockley. “He was not happy about her weight and he wanted her to lose weight, so he wanted me to train her.”
After meeting Lindsey Lee, Hockley testified she became obsessed with martial arts and developed a strict workout and diet regimen. As a result, she began losing weight, while Jason Lee, did not.
Hockley testified the last time he spoke to him was shortly after the couple became separated in 2016. Lindsey continued to work out at his gym.
He testified on the night of her death, Lee had attended a class before heading to Walmart. It was the last time Hockley spoke to her. He tearfully told the jury he regrets not teaching Lee more self-defense moves.
“If I had taught her, she might have had a chance,” he said. “We talked about it, but we didn’t actually get to do it. I didn’t think she needed it, to be fair.”
Hockley’s DNA was found at Lee’s home by investigators on several different surfaces, but he testified that Lee had hosted a party at her home in the months leading up to her death and he was a guest.
SLED investigators also testified to reviewing Jason Lee’s phone records and search inquiries on his cell phone. “Hungry Money” was the listed contact for his estranged wife’s home address. Investigators also noticed his call log between Jan. 14 and March 14, 2017, had been deleted.
They further testified his web search history had been erased before March 15, 2017, just one day after Lee’s body was found. However, investigators testified they were able to recover some of the search inquiries. Some of the keyword searches included how to reset passwords, criminal defense attorneys, an obituary website and news articles related to Lee’s death.
His finances were also closely examined by prosecutors as a possible motive for the killing. Thousands of documents revealed Lee’s credit cards were maxed out, he was facing eviction, his car was in the early stages of being repossessed and he owed his soon-to-be ex-wife $1,300 before their divorce would be finalized in April 2017.
Surveillance video presented by prosecutors also showed Lee walking around in several parking lots near his Simpsonville apartment. In one video, he is seen parking his personal car and walking across multiple businesses parking lots. He returns a short time later, driving his work van and parked it next to his car. He sits in the van for about four minutes before driving the van to the neighboring Walmart and making several purchases. He then drives away.
Initially, Lee told SLED agents he woke up to find his personal car missing from his apartment complex, only to learn it was being repossessed.
Jason Lee told the judge he did not want to testify on his behalf and his defense team rested its case after calling no witnesses to the stand. Closing arguments are set to begin Friday morning before the case will be in the hands of the jury.
Lee faces life in prison if convicted.
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