Samantha Tainewasher told a jury Tuesday that she went to visit the graves of her mother and brother before events took a sharp turn, resulting in the murder of her cousin, 25-year-old Alillia “Lala” Minthorn.
Jordan Everett Stevens has been charged with first-degree murder in Minthorn’s death.
Tainewasher is one of two witnesses who say they were there when Minthorn was shot to death in a closed area of the Yakama reservation in early May 2019.
The other witness is Jasmine McCormack. Both testified Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Yakima.
Though both claim Stevens shot Minthorn because she had talked to the FBI about an incident in which he was involved, their recollection of events differed.
Their stories prompted more questions than answers, and even led one defense attorney to probe McCormack about whether she had embarked on a personal relationship with an FBI detective who investigated the case.
Stevens sat quietly as Tainewasher told how events unfolded that fateful spring day.
Tainewasher said she picked up Stevens and McCormack early that day before meeting Minthorn at a Toppenish homeless encampment known as the compound.
From there, they headed to a cemetery in Union Gap, Tainewasher said.
Tainewasher said she was the only one who got out of her SUV to visit the graves of her mother and brother. She said she returned to her vehicle to find McCormack beating on Minthorn.
“I told her to stop,” Tainewash said.
Then Stevens began striking Minthorn in the face with the butt of a shotgun, Tainewasher said.
“Jordan hit Lala in the face multiple times,” she said.
Tainewasher said McCormack then jumped into the driver’s seat and drove to an area north of Brownstown in the closed area of the reservation.
Tainewasher said they all got out of her vehicle and Stevens shot Minthorn.
“I heard one shot,” Tainewasher said. “Jordan shot her.”
Tainewasher then pointed Stevens out in the courtroom as her cousin’s killer.
“They said Lala told on them to the feds, both Jasmine and Jordan said that,” Tainewasher said.
They left Minthorn’s body there and drove to the Brownstown Tavern, Tainewasher said.
There, McCormack began cleaning out her car before leaving in it with Stevens, Tainewasher said.
Tainewasher said she called police to report her vehicle stolen, but the two returned about 15 minutes later.
Tainewasher said she had a spare key to her vehicle and was able to drive away, leaving Stevens and McCormack behind.
During cross examination, defense attorney Karla Kane Hudson asked Tainewasher why she didn’t report her cousin’s murder when she called police about the theft of her vehicle.
Tainewasher said she was in fear because Stevens and McCormack had threatened her.
“I was scared after that because I was threatened — I was receiving threats. I have children to worry about,” Tainewasher said.
She said she would have told police if they would have responded to her stolen vehicle call.
“Because the cops would have been there to protect me,” she said.
McCormack’s story differed in that she told the jury Tainewasher had fought with Minthorn. McCormack was reluctant to answer questions at times and often said she couldn’t remember.
She said she had been drinking. Tainewasher admitted smoking meth that day.
Defense attorney Ulvar Klein pressed McCormack about why she decided to cooperate with investigators and testify against Stevens.
He asked her if she had developed a personal relationship with the FBI detective who was identified in the courtroom as agent Barefoot. His first name was not given.
He even asked McCormack if she thought the agent was good looking.
“Do you have a thing for him?” Klein asked.
Klein’s questioning drew objections from prosecutors.
“There are more than 100 conversations between them in the last year,” Klein said.
Klein reviewed transcripts of some calls, asking about one involving Barefoot telling McCormack he didn’t want to visit her in Gig Harbor because of the trial and that it would look like they were secretly seeing each other.
“True,” McCormack replied.
Klein suggested Barefoot promised McCormack a positive outcome in a robbery case she’s facing to testify against Stevens.
McCormack and Stevens were pursued on May 20, 2019, by police in a stolen vehicle in Dallesport along the Columbia River and were arrested.
McCormack denied having any knowledge about Minthorn’s death when first contacted by the detective while in jail, but later that day called him back, Klein said.
Klein read a May 28, 2019, phone transcript to the court between McCormack and Barefoot.
“I’m willing to help but I won’t say nothing until I get out,” Klein read.
A day later, McCormack led investigators to Minthorn’s body, according to a trial brief.
Klein asked McCormack if she told someone at the tavern that she pulled the trigger.
McCormack said no.