Jennifer Wilson’s counselor saw the “red flags” of domestic violence at their first meeting in 2011, less than two weeks before Wilson was killed at the hands of her lover.
Jenme Stewart said Wilson told her on Aug. 17, she only sought out counseling because friends were worried about her relationship with Hank Hawes. But Wilson assured the counselor that their disagreements never got physical.
Stewart was one of three people who gave testimony Wednesday that Hawes was threatening to Wilson, a popular, 36-year-old USC professor who had been dating Hawes on and off for about seven months when he stabbed her to death in her Shandon apartment on Aug. 28, 2011.
Prosecutor Dolly Justice Garfield asked Stewart what made her think Wilson might be the victim of domestic violence.
Wilson told her the relationship was new and that Hawes “was coming on very strong; he wanted to be in constant contact,” Stewart said.
In addition, Wilson told her counselor that when she tried to pull away, Hawes threatened to expose something embarrassing. Lastly, Wilson knew nothing about Hawes’ family.
Add to that the concern of friends, and all are “indications” of potential domestic violence, Stewart said.
When Wilson returned for a follow-up visit Aug. 24, she said she wasn’t sure whether she wanted to stay in the relationship with Hawes.
Stewart asked her to talk out the pros and cons.
“The principal reason she gave me to stay in the relationship was that she was at a time in her life when she wanted to settle down and have a family,” Stewart said.
On the other hand, Wilson told the counselor, Hawes “was too intense, that her friends were increasingly worried about her and that he called her a lot – too often – and that he was jealous,” Stewart related.
Wilson chalked up Hawes’ behavior to being impulsive and immature. She also said he had ADHD, Stewart said.
The counselor said she asked Wilson point blank whether Hawes had ever hit her.
She said no.
“How did she classify his threats?” Garfield, the prosecutor, asked.
“She said that she felt pretty clear that his threats are empty,” Stewart said. “I asked her directly if she was afraid, and she said ‘no.’ ... She said his bark is way more than his bite.”
It was a close friend of Wilson’s, Tasha Laman, who persuaded Wilson to see Stewart. She also had encouraged her friend to go to the police, she said.
Over the spring, Laman said she’d watched as Wilson began staying in the office more, seemed anxious and lost weight. She started carrying an iPhone that Hawes had gotten for her, Laman said.
Despite their closeness, Wilson did not want Laman and Hawes to meet, she said. That seemed odd because she’d met other men in Wilson’s past.
In August, Wilson sent her a text message that she had broken off the relationship with Hawes, and that Hawes had told her he would ruin her life, Laman said.
As a general rule, witnesses are not allowed to testify about what someone else told them.
In a private hearing before the judge, Laman said Wilson had told her that Hawes had issued “various ultimatums” and that he had asked for her parents’ Social Security numbers. She did not provide them.
Back before the jury, defense lawyer Fielding Pringle noted that Wilson went to see her parents in St. Louis in July, telling Laman she had broken up with Hawes.
Yet the two were in touch every day, Pringle said.
In one message, Wilson told Hawes she was considering going off her birth control to have a baby with him, Pringle said.
Prosecutor Foster Mathews returned to ask Laman why she encouraged her friend to see a counselor in the first place.
“Jennifer was having trouble making a clean break with Hank, and I was worried about her,” she said.
In other testimony, co-worker Bruce Field recalled a day when Wilson seemed frightened. As a result of their conversation, he said, “I made sure I was present in the building that afternoon. I was concerned.”
Christine Dahlheimer of Greenville, who met Hawes on eHarmony in fall 2009, said she bought the 2011 Range Rover that Hawes was driving. The loan was in her name, but he was supposed to make the payments and cover taxes and insurance, she said. He took both keys to the truck, she said, and the last time she saw him was in December 2010.
Another Greenville woman, Kimberly Williams, said she met Hawes online and had a brief relationship with him from fall 2010 to January 2011. Williams said Hawes called her on the day of Wilson’s death and “indicated he had a problem and he could be charged with murder.” Hawes told her he was “worried people would not believe it was self-defense,” she said. Hawes also said he had spoken with a defense attorney who wanted $25,000, she said.
• Dr. Stacy Newsom of Greenville said she met Hawes online in 2008 when she was living in Panama City, Fla. He moved with her to South Carolina. They broke up after a 21/2-year relationship. Newsom said Hawes called her in the early morning hours of Aug. 28, 2011, saying he felt sick. Hawes was upset and asked her to stay on the line with him. She told him he should call an ambulance, and she agreed to come to Columbia to pick up his dog, she said.
Columbia Police Officer Zachary Jackson and Richland paramedic Robin Hazelden testified about going to Hawes’ house on Woodrow Street late that morning on a possible suicide attempt. They found Hawes lying on the deck behind the house. Hazelden said both his wrists were cut, one of them deeply, but Hawes was no longer bleeding. Jackson said he couldn’t find a weapon but, inside the house, did see bluejeans with stains on them.
Hawes’ defense team is not denying that he killed Wilson, but they say it was a crime of passion, not murder.
Wednesday morning, jurors reviewed nearly 200 police photographs from the crime scene at Wilson’s Monroe Street house, some showing close-up views of knife wounds on Wilson’s body, a bite mark on her shoulder and bruises on her leg.
Hawes’ lawyers persuaded Judge J.C. Nicholson Jr. to remove 10 images from the stack, arguing they would prejudice the jury against him.
In a private hearing before the judge, defense lawyer Megan Eigenbrot said the images were “pretty gruesome shots.” But prosecutor Luck Campbell argued some of the shots the defense found objectionable were essential to demonstrating malice, the standard for a murder conviction.
Early on, one juror appeared to be struggling to maintain her composure as Campbell and Columbia police crime analyst Paul Nelson reviewed the images, one by one.
On cross-examination, defense lawyer Doug Strickler emphasized all the places in the house where there were large amounts of blood that police did not sample as evidence, despite knowing that Hawes had cut his wrists.
Nelson said police found three knives in the home: one on a nightstand, one in the living room and a third in the kitchen of the Monroe Street duplex where Wilson lived.