Preliminary hearing begins in murder case

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 12, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – A preliminary hearing for a man accused of first-degree murder in connection with the May 28 death of a Concordia Parish woman began Wednesday in Seventh Judicial District Court.

If found guilty of first-degree murder, Stephen Alfred Jackson, 34, could receive the death penalty.

The hearing, which lasted more than five hours Wednesday, will resume Aug. 15 before Judge Leo Boothe. Jackson, of 133 Donald Drive in Vidalia, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson and armed robbery.

He is being held at the Concordia Parish Correctional Facility extension on $1,202,500 bond.

Autopsy results showed that Linda Merritt McClanahan, 54, of 127 Donald Drive, was beaten with a blunt instrument and stabbed several times before the trailer in which she was living was set on fire, apparently to cover up the crime.

The autopsy found that she was dead before the fire started, sheriff’s Investigator Jimmy Darden testified during the hearing’s first day.

The autopsy also found blue pigment on McClanahan’s head, which investigators believe came from a blue tire iron allegedly used to beat her, Darden said.

During the hearing’s first day, defense attorney Clive Stafford Smith asked Darden about the drug use of Elizabeth Mohan, Jackson’s girlfriend and the primary witness in the case.

Darden stated that Mohan did use illegal drugs. &uot;And she was the source of much of your information?&uot; Smith asked Darden.

&uot;Yes,&uot; Darden said.

When asked if McClanahan is also believed to have used and sold drugs, Darden said &uot;I believe that would be fair statement.&uot;

Smith also asked Darden about conflicting information Mohan — who was arrested on charges of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder, aggravated arson and armed robbery — gave to investigators during several interviews.

For example, Mohan told investigators at first that she was alone when she went to a nearby store to buy food the night of McClanahan’s death, then changed her story to say that Jackson was with her, according to Darden’s testimony. Darden testified that Mohan told him, after several interviews with sheriff’s investigators, that Jackson told her he killed McClanahan.

He also testified that he told Mohan at least two times, while interrogating her, that Jackson would probably kill her if she didn’t testify.

&uot;Did you tell (Mohan) to say (Jackson) did it, even if he didn’t?&uot; Smith asked.

&uot;That’s a lie,&uot; Darden said. &uot;I’ve&160;never said that, and I&160;never will.&uot;

As far as evidence is concerned, Darden said Mohan led him and other investigators to where Jackson allegedly dumped the charred remains of McClanahan’s purse as well as a T-shirt the victim was wearing at the time of her death.

Investigators’ evidence also includes scrapings from underneath McClanahan’s fingernails; and photos of what appeared to be a burn on Jackson’s right arm.

Some of Jackson’s family members were present at Wednesday’s hearing but would not comment.