Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

July 30, 2013

Witness: Cerda needed a man to ‘disappear’

TAHLEQUAH — Testimony began Monday in the preliminary hearing of a man accused of soliciting for the murder of his wife’s boyfriend.

Jesus “Jesse” Cerda, 38, of Tahlequah, appeared in front of Associate District Judge Mark Dobbins. After a day of testimony, the hearing was postponed to a later date.

Lewis G. Davis was the focus of testimony Monday. He told Assistant District Attorney Doug Dry that he and his wife needed a place to stay in early March, when Davis was released from the Cherokee County Detention Center. A man Davis knew only by first name, who had been released from jail about an hour before Davis, offered the couple a place to stay at a home on Allen Road.

While at the man’s house, Cerda showed up for a barbecue. Davis recognized Cerda as an inmate who had been housed in the same pod during a stay at CCDC in 2012. Davis said that was only the second time he had seen Cerda.

Cerda later gave Davis and Davis’ wife a ride to a local motel. Davis claims he and Cerda began talking about taxes, and Cerda – a tax professional – gave Davis $100 in exchange for Davis’ name, Social Security number and other information. Cerda allegedly said he could use Davis’ information to help some of his tax clients.

Several days later, Cerda called Davis and wanted to meet with him.

“[Cerda] approached me with a proposition,” Davis testified Monday. “He said that he had a problem.”

Davis said he felt as though he owed Cerda, because Cerda had given Davis $100. Cerda told Davis somebody was “messing with” his family, that he needed a man to “disappear,” and that he “wanted this man dead” as soon as possible.

Davis said he threw out a price tag – $10,000 – but eventually agreed to a $5,000 payment for the deed. Cerda allegedly went to his car and retrieved $2,500 cash, which he gave to Davis, and agreed to pay the other half after the job was complete.

“He wanted this man dealt with; he wanted this man taken care of,” Davis said. “He said money wasn’t an object.”

Days later, Cerda allegedly met with Davis again and gave him two guns.

Davis alleges he and Cerda met several times – almost daily – in the weeks that followed, with Cerda buying two cell phones for Davis and asking him to keep tabs on a home where Cerda’s wife and her so-called lover were staying in Tahlequah.

Cerda insisted he didn’t want his wife to be hurt, Davis testified.

“He kept pressing me about getting this job done, and I was dragging my feet,” Davis said.

According to Davis, Cerda eventually began to get “pushy” and “edgy,” and Davis started fearing for his own safety. In early April, Davis went to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and asked to speak with Investigator Casey Baker.

Davis then told investigators about Cerda’s alleged solicitation.

Cerda’s attorney, Rex Earl Starr, asked whether Davis is getting assistance with his pending criminal cases in exchange for testimony against Cerda; Davis said he didn’t expect anything.

“My wife convinced me [to tell authorities],” Davis said, because it “was the right thing to do.”

Davis told Starr he is “damn proud” that a man’s life was saved because he came forward with the information.

Starr asked Davis why he specifically sought Baker.

“I’d known him from previous encounters with law enforcement,” said Davis. “He was the only one I knew by name ... and I knew he was an honest cop; he was fair ... and was going to listen to what I had to say.”

Starr hammered Davis over the timeline of the events, and continually tried to get Davis to provide dates and locations of the alleged conversations with Cerda. But Davis testified he couldn’t remember them all by date.

Starr then asked whether Davis had any proof of the alleged meetings with Cerda, or any evidence of the cash, guns or cell phones that Cerda supposedly gave Davis.

Davis said he might have a receipt showing Cerda’s purchase of the two cell phones, but otherwise didn’t have any such evidence.

“The man’s asking me to commit a criminal act,” Davis said. “You want me to create a timeline?”

Davis told Starr he went where Cerda asked him to go, and they met at places like the Keetoowah Casino, Walmart, restaurants and convenience stores.

Davis testified he never had any intention of committing the murder, but was broke and needed the money Cerda provided.

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