CLINTON — A jury trial is underway in Clinton County District Court for a Clinton man charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Opening statements from prosecutors and the defense were introduced to the jury Tuesday during the trial of Steve Armsted, 49, of Clinton. Armsted is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the 2017 deaths of Kevin Lambert and Steven Cox at their residence at 114 N. Fifth St.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Douglas Hammerand and Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf are representing the State in the case. Hammerand in his opening statement Tuesday contended that Armsted stabbed both Lambert and Cox once in the heart. Hammerand said Armsted then left the residence and got rid of the knife.
Hammerand said that on March 2, 2017, Armsted was at Lambert’s residence. He said the Lambert landline showed Armsted calling a woman who Hammerand said Armsted had an off and on relationship with for about 20 years. Hammerand said Armsted called the woman and requested $30, which he said he needed to stay at a residence. The woman met Armsted at the 24-7 Shell, which is confirmed by surveillance video, Hammerand stated. Hammerand said the woman gave Armsted $30.
Hammerand states Armsted went back to the residence and on the morning of March 2 used Lambert’s landline to call Clinton National Bank. Armsted said neither Cox nor Lambert had an account at Clinton National Bank but Armsted did have an account. Hammerand said that on the morning of March 4, 2017, Armsted went to Clinton National Bank to request stopping payments. He took $75 out of an account, leaving $8 in the account, Hammerand stated.
Hammerand continued that Armsted was seen on video surveillance playing pool with a man at River City Brewing. Hammerand says Armsted and the man talked about getting crack cocaine. Armsted and the man went to Lambert’s residence, stating they wanted crack cocaine. Hammerand described Lambert’s role in obtaining the drugs as a go-between. Hammerand said Lambert made a call and later got on his bike and left the residence to go get the drugs.
Hammerand said Armsted later called his pastor. Hammerand said the pastor’s wife answered the phone. Armsted told the woman he was at a friend’s residence and needed $30 to stay there, according to Hammerand. The pastor’s wife said she would give him $20, which she left in a mailbox for Armsted to pick up. Armsted and Lambert later returned to the residence. A call was made at 1:56 a.m. to River City Brewing. There was not a single call made afterwards from the landline or an outgoing call from the cell phones of either Cox or Lambert, Hammerand said.
Hammerand said Armsted at about 5:30 p.m. March 7, 2017, again called the same woman with whom he’d had an off and on relationship. Hammerand contended Armsted said he wanted her to take him to the bus station to go back to Mississippi. Hammerand contends Armsted had said he was in trouble, it was serious and if he got caught he would go to jail for the rest of his life. Hammerand said the woman did not provide assistance to Armsted.
Hammerand said the facts and evidence of the case show Armsted is the person who stabbed and killed Lambert and Cox.
Armsted is represented in the case by attorneys Miguel Puentes and Meenakshi Brandt. Brandt said that in the early morning of March 5, 2017, something happened to Cox and Lambert that was a tragedy but it does not equate to Armsted committing murder. She said the evidence in the case is full of reasonable doubt and that the burden of proof lies with the State. She said the residence had multiple entrances and there were multiple people in and out of the residence.
District Court Judge John Telleen said the opening statements are an opportunity for counsel to explain issues in the case and what they expect the evidence to show. He stated the opening statements are not evidence, adding the jury is to base its verdict on the evidence.
The trial will continue today at the Clinton County Courthouse.