Jurors in Southworth trial see video recording of police interview

Southworth talks of his wife's alleged affair and flaws

jhewlett@herald-leader.comJanuary 19, 2012 

Defendant Donald Southworth, with Deputy Sheriff Lonnie Greene, entered the Fayette Circuit courtroom Wednesday for the third day of his murder trial in the death of his wife, Umi Southworth.


Jurors in the murder trial of Donald Southworth on Wednesday watched part of a video recording of Lexington police detectives interviewing Southworth.

In the interview at police headquarters, Southworth talks repeatedly about his wife, Umi, having an affair with another man. He also says she liked to play "victim" and was a "makeup queen." Donald Southworth says that a long time ago he thought Umi was investing money overseas and that she had enormous credit-card debt. He says his wife kept him in the dark a lot.

At one point, he briefly breaks down and says, "I think Umi's been hurt."

The interview was recorded June 9, 2010, the same day Umi Southworth, 44, was found badly beaten in a brushy area behind the couple's residence on Meadowthorpe Avenue. She was pronounced dead the next day, after she was taken off life support. Donald Southworth, now 49, was charged with murder in her death almost a year later.

Wednesday marked the sixth day of his trial in Fayette Circuit Court. The trial is expected to conclude Friday.

Judge Kimberly Bunnell told jurors that parts of the recorded interview had been redacted, and she instructed the jury not to draw inferences or speculate about that.

Apparently, the remainder of the redacted two-part interview will be played for jurors after the trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Earlier Wednesday, Lexington police detective Bill Brislin testified that in the second part of the interview with Donald Southworth, Southworth said some things that piqued detectives' interest. Brislin, the lead detective on the case, said police purposely did not reveal to the public that Umi Southworth was found naked and that she was found under a box spring — things only her killer would know.

Brislin said that in the second part of the interview with Donald Southworth, after detectives tell him Umi has been found, Southworth indicated an upstairs neighbor couldn't be involved in the case, saying the neighbor was gay. Brislin said the statement indicated to detectives that Donald Southworth might have known Umi was found naked.

Brislin also spread three garbage bags on the courtroom floor before the jurors. According to testimony, one bag was found in the brushy area where Umi was discovered, one was found in the kitchen of the Southworths' apartment and one was found behind the Southworths' parking shed. Brislin and Assistant Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn pointed out that the garbage bags were similar.

Earlier, jurors heard from Kentucky State Police crime laboratory forensics experts, and witnesses who had had occasions to observe Donald Southworth and how he interacted with his family. Prosecutors maintain that Southworth was a controlling person and that he killed Umi because he couldn't control her.

Bridget Holbrook, a forensic biologist with the state police crime lab, said DNA possibly belonging to Donald Southworth and DNA from an unidentified person were found on cuttings taken from a dress/nightgown found near where Umi was discovered.

Jeff Jacobs, a vice president at Central Bank & Trust Co., where Umi Southworth once worked, testified about a string of accounts and loans Umi had had in her name over several years. He said she listed her work address instead of her home address on those accounts and loans.

Jon Weece, senior pastor at Southland Christian Church, told jurors that Donald Southworth wanted to be onstage while his daughter Almira, a folk singer, performed at the church in May 2009. Weece agreed with a prosecutor that Donald Southworth was pushy about wanting to be onstage. Weece said Donald, Umi and Aleah, Donald Southworth's daughter by another woman, came to the services with Almira. He also said Umi Southworth was timid.

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

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