WOODLAND — James Elron Mings arrived at the Davis police station wearing dingy clothes and with long, disheveled blond hair, talking of love, charity and the virtue of putting others’ needs before one’s own.
“Love conquers all, and there’s nothing more important than love,” Mings said during the Oct. 1, 2011, interview with Detective Ariel Pineda, a video recording of which was played Wednesday in Yolo Superior Court.
Then came the confession: that Mings helped end the life of a chronically ill Kevin Gerard Seery, whose body was found that morning in his apartment at 945 J St.
“He asked me to help him out of his misery. … I did exactly what he asked me to do,” Mings said. He described placing Seery in a choke hold until he lost consciousness, then stuffing his mouth with gauze to finish the job.
“I’d never done something like that before,” Mings said, shortly before Pineda placed him under arrest.
Seventeen months later, Mings is standing trial on a charge of murder in connection with the 42-year-old Seery’s death. He has pleaded not guilty.
What his defense will be is unclear, with defense attorney Dan Hutchinson deferring his opening statement until the start of his case.
In his cross-examination of Pineda, Hutchinson noted that Mings made no mention of the antibacterial wipes and portion of a tube sock that coroner’s officials also extracted from Seery’s throat. He also suggested that Mings was “high as a kite” on marijuana during the interview, though Pineda said there were no indications he was under the influence.
Earlier that day, Pineda had questioned Mings outside Seery’s apartment, from where Mings called 911 and claimed to have discovered Seery’s body. During that interview — an audio recording of which was played in court — Pineda asked Mings about the material in Seery’s mouth, as well as the reddish-blond hairs that were stuck to his lips.
“If I knew, I’d be more than happy to tell you,” Mings replied.
In his cross-examination, Hutchinson asked why Pineda didn’t ask similar questions of a third dark-haired man who had been in the apartment on the night of Seery’s death, even though crime-scene photos also showed darker hairs around Seery’s mouth.
“To me, it appeared it appeared obvious the hairs were very similar in shape, waviness and color to Mr. Mings,” Pineda said.
Jurors also heard Wednesday from Seery’s mother, Catherine Seery, who described the swift decline in her son’s health in the months before he died.
She said Kevin Seery had enjoyed an active childhood in Davis, particularly biking and rock climbing. He joined the Army after high school, serving as a medic overseas during Operation Desert Storm.
He later worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., before returning to California, making his way through dramatic arts school, community college and a number of odd jobs.
“He was having problems concentrating,” Catherine Seery said. Diagnosed with stress related to his Army service, Kevin Seery went on disability and began seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed him with Zyprexa, an antipsychotic medication whose side-effects include weight gain and diabetes.
Catherine Seery said her son’s weight soared to more than 200 pounds when, around Christmas 2010, she noticed symptoms consistent with diabetes. He was diagnosed the following February, along with nerve damage that made even putting his feet on the ground a painful experience.
A breakdown and subsequent hospitalization that summer resulted in prescriptions for multiple pain medications, including the powerful narcotic drugs morphine and hydrocodone, Catherine Seery said. After that, her son’s weight took a dramatic plunge.
Catherine Seery said she would come to Davis several times a week to care for her son, who had befriended several homeless men he had met while volunteering at a local homeless shelter.
“This is Elron,” he said one afternoon as his mother dropped of some newly filled prescriptions. Catherine Seery identified Mings in court, noting, “he’s put on a lot of weight.”
“They were laughing, very jovial,” Seery said of her son and Mings that day — the last time she saw Kevin Seery alive.
Two days later, Catherine Seery received a call from her son’s cell phone. But instead of hearing his voice on the other line, she heard another friend, Tom, who occasionally stayed at Seery’s apartment.
“Kevin has left us,” he said, a tearful Catherine Seery replied. She recalled telling a detective her son would never take his own life, noting that he was intent on battling his illnesses.
“He seemed to be much happier,” she said of his final days.
Prosecutor Martha Holzapfel was expected to continue her case today and Friday, with the defense’s case beginning early next week.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene