The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 26, 2014

Raleigh County Circuit Court: Trial begins in dancer’s murder

Ex-boyfriend accused of stabbing victim 23 times

BECKLEY — A murder trial began Tuesday in Raleigh County Circuit Court for a 33-year-old Fayette County man accused of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend 23 times.

Jeremy James Lambert, of Oak Hill, was arrested Oct. 2, 2011, the night that 25-year-old Cyan Elizabeth Maroney was stabbed to death at her apartment on Myers Avenue in Beckley.

During opening statements, Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller described the weapon used during the stabbing as a 14-inch Winchester bowie knife.

“Cyan did nothing by law to bring about her own death,” Keller said. “This was death by ambush.”

She described to the 14 members of the jury, six males and eight females, that for Lambert to be proven guilty of first degree murder, they must believe that he premeditated the murder.

Keller then reviewed the facts of the case, including that Maroney was a ballet trained dancer, weighing about 100 pounds and standing at 5-feet 2-inches tall. She lived in a small house along with three roommates, Katie Houff, Ayman Robertson and Catherine Claus, who were all dancers at either Theatre West Virginia or West Virginia Dance Company.

In addition to dancing, Maroney was also employed part-time at Tamarack and Gabriel Brothers, where she met Lambert, who was also an employee there.

Maroney and Lambert dated in the summer of 2011, but broke up in September. They remained in contact with one another, but then Lambert discovered Maroney was dating someone else.

On Oct. 2, 2011, Lambert went to the sporting goods section of the Beckley Walmart and purchased a 14-inch Winchester bowie knife. Maroney arrived at her house at approximately 7 p.m. and Lambert arrived sometime thereafter.

Her roommates heard them talking outside, then Maroney returned inside alone. A few moments later, Lambert came into the house, went into Maroney’s bedroom and the roommates heard “sounds of violence” and a “blood curdling scream,” Keller related to the jury.

They did not open the door, but yelled for Lambert to stop from the hallway. When Lambert emerged, he was covered in blood and holding a blood-covered knife.

Houff called 911 and Claus attempted to stop Maroney’s bleeding. When EMS arrived, Maroney was transported to Beckley Appalachian Regional Healthcare, where she was pronounced dead.

“What this defendant did wrong is called first degree murder,” Keller said to the jury.

According to the state medical examiner’s report, Maroney only weighed 84 pounds at the time of autopsy because she had lost so much blood and bodily fluids during the stabbing.

Keller said the report described the cause of death as a “fatal assault in a setting of domestic violence.” Maroney was stabbed multiple times in her back and on her arms. Her heart, esophagus, stomach, lung, liver, kidney and spleen also sustained stab wounds.

Lambert’s defense attorney Thomas Dyer then told the jury that it was not their job to determine whether or not Lambert killed Maroney — “That’s him right there. There is the killer,” Dyer said as he pointed to Lambert.

Dyer said the jury must decide whether or not Lambert had intent to kill, whether the murder was premeditated and whether or not it was with malice.

“At the conclusion of the trial, you’ll be asked to determine what was going on in Lambert’s mind when he committed this horrendous act.”

Lambert, who grew up in Mullens and was a graduate of Wyoming East High School, was once voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by his classmates, Dyer said.

After high school, Lambert entered the U.S. Air Force, but was soon shipped out to Kuwait after 9/11.

“He experienced terror and fear there he could have never imagined,” Dyer said, adding that his mother will testify about how the military changed him.

After spending six years in the Air Force, Lambert joined the Army. At this point, Dyer said Lambert was in and out of psychiatric wards at VA hospitals because of homicidal and suicidal thoughts.

He was diagnosed with  “combat-related severe PTSD,” or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There is no excuse for what this young man’s done,” Dyer said. “I gave you this explanation to help assist you in deciding whether he’s guilty of first degree murder or another type of homicide.”

Maroney’s former roommate Katie Houff, now 25, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was the first witness called by the prosecution.

Houff reviewed the layout of the house where the four roommates lived and she began describing the sequence of events on the night her roommate was stabbed to death.

Houff referred to notes several times to ensure her statements were accurate. She said police had recommended she write down as much information as she could remember after the incident in case it would be needed later.

She said Maroney had worked at Tamarack that day and some of the roommates had gone home or elsewhere for the weekend, but everyone was back by 8 p.m.

When Maroney went outside, Houff said she could only hear muffled voices, but when she returned inside, she was “very upset.”

When Lambert followed her inside, Houff said nothing seemed unusual and she did not see him with any weapons.  

“At first, I heard nothing. I assumed it was normal conversation. That escalated to arguing, which then escalated to screaming and yelling. I then heard a blood curdling scream from Cyan.”

She said she and her roommates yelled from the hallway telling them to stop.

“I was terrified. I assumed the worst.”

They did not open the door, but when Lambert came out, he was carrying a “large, bloody knife in his hand.”

Houff said Lambert told them, “Get the f*** out of the way,” and he mumbled, “That’ll show that motherf***** to leave me.”

Houff then called 911 and said Maroney was lying with her back toward the door, not moving, covered in blood.

The second witness was 29-year-old Ayman Robertson, a dancer from North Carolina. He said he had gone to see the Broadway play “Wicked” over the weekend and had returned that Sunday night. Robertson became too emotional to answer many of Keller’s questions, but he did confirm the sequence of events as Houff described them.

The third witness was Maroney’s third roommate, Catherine “Cat” Claus, now 25, of Massachusetts.

Claus said Lambert never talked much to her or her other roommates; he just followed Maroney around the house. In a police statement later reviewed, Claus had described Lambert as “shy.”

She reviewed the same series of events and after Lambert left, she was the one who ran into Maroney’s room to try to keep her alive.

“I ran in and tried to cover as many stab wounds as I could,” she said as she began crying. “I was trying to get her to stop bleeding so much. There were so many of them, there wasn’t much I could do.”

During the afternoon session of the trial, EMS responder William Howell reviewed photos of the crime scene, noting the “dark, coagulated blood” indicated a major trauma was sustained.

Keller had him to review photos of the stabs wounds, which were then displayed to the jury.

One wound stood out to Howell in particular, he said, which was on Maroney’s head that looked like it went all the way “down to her skull.” Another stab wound on her arm went “down to the bone.”

He said when he started CPR, he pushed air into her lungs, but it was coming out through a stab wound on her side.  

An advanced life support unit arrived on scene moments later, and paramedic Michael Tompkins tried to revive Maroney.

Tompkins, with 12 years as a paramedic in Raleigh County and experience treating combat injuries in Afghanistan, said, “She was essentially bled to death already. There was no activity on the heart monitor.”

The next witness, Dr. David Stuart, a trauma and general surgery physician at B-ARH, said the same about Maroney upon her arrival at the emergency room – “She was essentially dead.”

“She had no cardiac activity, no blood pressure. She had no more blood within her body to bleed.”

He also said she had lung tissue on the outside of her body.

Marty Agee, Director of Emergency Service for Raleigh County, was the next witness; she was asked to review procedures for recording 911 calls. The jury then listened to the initial 911 call from Houff about the stabbing, and subsequent calls between the 911 Center and police departments as they worked to track down Lambert.

Fayette County Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Roberts said a “be on the lookout” was issued the night of the stabbing for a 1992 green Geo Tracker. Roberts spotted the automobile at 11:27 p.m. just past the New River Gorge Bridge.

Roberts said Lambert was driving normally, going the speed limit and was very calm and collected when he pulled him over. He never asked why he was being pulled over, or why he was being arrested when Roberts cuffed him and took him into custody.

Raleigh County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Gunther then reviewed the search for the murder weapon, which still has not been found.

Gunther did find a Winchester box in Lambert’s vehicle, which he said he recognized as an item sold at Walmart. After checking with Walmart, video surveillance was found of Lambert purchasing the bowie knife, which came inside the Winchester box.

Karen Lynn Lilly, the clerk who sold the knife to Lambert, was questioned by Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office and was also called Tuesday as a witness.

Lilly said she had seen Lambert in the sporting goods section two or three times before his purchase of the bowie knife, but she did not know him by name.

She said he did not seem to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or she would not have sold him the weapon.

The trial will continue before Judge Robert Burnside today at 9 a.m.

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