Over the objections of defense lawyers, a prosecution witness testified Wednesday that the missing- and presumed-slain Portia Washington had said her accused killer and live-in boyfriend Kenneth Lynch had made her West Columbia apartment a “hellhole.”
“She said, ‘I don’t want to go back to that hellhole,’” longtime friend Linda Miller testified at the Lexington County Courthouse.
Judge Eugene Griffith wouldn’t allow any more testimony about Washington’s statement. Normally, such statements – called hearsay – aren’t allowed into a trial because the person who allegedly made the statement isn’t present to be cross-examined.
Eleventh Judicial Circuit Solicitor Donnie Myers is seeking the death penalty for Lynch, 52. He is accused of killing Washington and her 7-year-old granddaughter, Angelica Livingston, in June 2006. Their bodies have never been found.
Immediately following their disappearance on June 10, 2006, Lynch drove Washington’s 2005 Ford Focus to Washington state, where he abandoned the car and tried to cross into Canada, prosecutors have said.
During much of Wednesday’s testimony, prosecutors tried to establish that Washington had deep roots in the Columbia area, maintained close and frequent ties with family and friends. She never would have given Lynch or anyone else her car, and she doted on her granddaughter.
Miller indicated that the relationship between Washington and Lynch was so bad she thought Washington should live elsewhere.
“I said they could come stay at my house. They (Washington and Livingston) didn’t have to go home,” testified Miller. That was on June 9, 2006, the day before Washington and her granddaughter disappeared.
Another friend, Washington’s former hairdresser, had blunter advice. “I told her she should leave him, and that I would pray for her,” Shyla Andrews testified.
Prosecution witnesses also said that after Washington met Lynch, she became less outgoing and less happy.
“She was beginning to change,” Miller testified.
The trial began Monday. It is expected to last up to three weeks, and the prosecution alone has indicated it could call 80 witnesses. Lynch waived his right to a jury trial and agreed to let Griffith alone deliver a verdict of innocent or guilty.
If Griffith finds Lynch guilty, the trial will then move to a second phase, in which both sides will put up evidence for or against the death penalty.
Reach Monk at (803)771-8344.