Saying they needed a “clear and fresh mind” jurors deciding the fate of one of three men accused in the 2015 slaying of Bonita Springs doctor Teresa Sievers broke for the night.
After seven days of testimony and a full day of closing arguments, jurors will continue deliberations at the Lee County Justice Center in Fort Myers at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Deliberations began about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday after the defendant Jimmy Ray Rodgers, 29, declined to testify and the defense rested its case on Monday. The jurors returned early afternoon to request that the testimony of Rodgers’ girlfriend be read back to them before returning to deliberations.
Rodgers is accused in the June 2015 bludgeoning death of Teresa Sievers, 46. Also accused are the victim’s husband Mark Sievers, 51, and Curtis Wayne Wright Jr., 51.
Closing arguments in the Rodgers trial got underway after Lee Circuit Judge Bruce Kyle denied a second motion for a judgment of acquittal from the defense on Monday.
Assistant State Attorney Cynthia Ross began the state’s closing arguments, painting a picture of a conspiracy between Mark Sievers, Wright and Rodgers that ended with Teresa Sievers’ death.
Ross told the jury they had to find Rodgers guilty because evidence and eyewitnesses placed him in Southwest Florida. Testimony presented during the trial made it a possibility that he took part in her murder, she said.
Ross used photos on a large screen to show Rodgers’ presence in Southwest Florida, including footage of him shopping at a Fort Myers Walmart, as proof of his guilt.
“Why were Curtis Wayne Wright and Jimmy Ray Rodgers in Florida,” Ross asked. “They were here to murder Teresa Sievers.”
The state proved premeditation and conspiracy and urged jurors to vote with their conscience, Ross said.
“Don’t leave your common sense behind,” Ross told the jurors. “The state proved Jimmy Ray Rodgers guilty. Find him guilty.”
Rodgers met fellow co-defendant Wright while they were incarcerated at the Sainte Genevieve County Jail in Missouri in 2010.
Wright and Mark Sievers grew up together in Missouri and were childhood friends.
During his testimony on Oct. 17, Wright admitted to his part in the slaying in exchange for a 25-year prison sentence as part of a plea deal.
The same day authorities announced the agreement, they arrested Mark Sievers. The agreement requires that Wright provide substantial assistance to the prosecution.
Wright already pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge, but his sentencing is contingent upon him telling the truth in court.
Mark Sievers first approached Wright with the idea of having his wife killed at Wright’s Missouri wedding in May 2015, Wright said during his testimony.
Rodgers became involved because Wright asked for help and didn’t want to kill the woman by himself, Wright said.
The Sievers were having marriage problems and Mark was in fear of losing his two daughters in a custody battle with his wife, Wright testified.
Behind it all was a life insurance policy Mark Sievers had taken out on his wife, Wright testified.
Mark Sievers told Wright he would pay $100,000 or more to have his wife killed and the plan was to share some of that money with Rodgers, Wright said on the witness stand.
Assistant Public Defender Donald McFarlane presented Wright as the sole person responsible for Teresa Sievers’ murder and said Wright is an evil, lying man trying to pin the blame on others.
“I don’t have a fancy multimedia presentation,” McFarlane said during closing arguments on Monday. “I’m going to rely on logic.”
The state’s evidence was incomplete and did not show that Rodgers presence in Florida was connected to the killing of Teresa Sievers, McFarlane said.
Rodgers and Wright did not hide the fact that they were coming to Florida, he said.
“It makes absolutely no sense that he told people he was going to Florida if he was going to kill Teresa Sievers,” McFarlane said.
Taylor Shomaker, Rodgers’ ex-girlfriend, also testified for the state during the trial.
After Rodgers returned home to Missouri from a trip to Florida, he instructed Shomaker to throw pieces of a broken cellphone and a blue jumpsuit out of a car window while they were driving, Shomaker testified.
Shomaker said she initiated a conversation with Rodgers about the death of Teresa Sievers while in bed and told him she knew he had something to do with it.
“He agreed with me,” Shomaker said while on the witness stand.
Rodgers told her he killed Teresa Sievers with a hammer, she said. She also said Rodgers nickname for himself was “Jimmy the hammer.”
While arguing in favor of a judgment for acquittal motion, Assistant Public Defender Jay Brizel said Shomaker’s testimony was not trustworthy because she has been paid by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office as part of a witness program and could be eligible for $50,000 reward in the case.
Rodgers’ trial began Oct. 1.
The first witness to testify in the Rodgers trial was Teresa Sievers’ older sister Ann Lisa.
“She was my sister and the love of my life,” Ann Lisa said from the witness stand.
Teresa Sievers was found dead, face down on the kitchen floor of her family’s home at Jarvis Road on June 29, 2015. Investigators found a hammer next to her body.
Rodgers and Mark Sievers are charged with first-degree murder and face the death penalty if convicted. A separate trial for Mark Sievers is expected to begin after Rodgers’ concludes.
Sievers and Rodgers also face a conspiracy to commit murder charge. Rodgers faces an additional charge of first-degree burglary while armed.