It was a couple of days before the Snowmageddon of 2014 when Officer Robert Delaney walked into the east Cobb home of a dead man.
The body of Jerry L. Moore was found lying by a blood-splattered cardboard box of Christmas lights.
That’s what Delaney described to a jury Wednesday as the first witness in the murder case against Johnathan Allan Wheeler, who is accused of stabbing Moore 32 times.
Wheeler, who has been in jail since the stabbing, walked into Cobb superior court wearing a black button-down shirt and a tie.
He sat and listened for 80 minutes as prosecutor Jesse Evans explained why he thought Wheeler should spend the rest of his life in prison on a malice murder charge.
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“He committed one of the most brutal murders you’ll see,” Evans said.
Moore was 46 when he died. He worked from home as a remote customer service representative for Disney helping people book visits to the parks.
“He died alone with his dog in his house,” Evans said before turning to Wheeler, “ ... as he plunged that knife into Jerry 32 times.”
As for motive, the state said it was a case of greed in a complicated web centered around someone who isn’t expected to appear in the court.
Evans said a longtime roommate of Moore’s was responsible for setting up the man’s death and orchestrated it with Wheeler.
The roommate runs the Best Dang Bakery Around in Woodstock that Moore financially backed, and where Wheeler briefly worked, prosecutors said. The roommate was a business mentor to Wheeler.
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Investigators found messages Moore sent to his roommate indicating the business wasn't doing well financially.
Moore wanted out and he wanted the roommate out of his home.
“I believe the evidence is going to show he is an uncharged co-conspirator in this murder,” said Evans. But the prosecutor never offered a reason why the roommate hasn’t been charged.
Kevin Rodgers, the attorney representing Wheeler, doesn’t understand either.
“Why not is beyond me,” Rodgers said during his opening remarks to the jury. “I represent one at a time.”
Prosecutors admitted that there’s no forensic evidence tying Wheeler to the crime — Wheeler’s cousin was convicted of helping him clean the crime scene.
The cousin told cops he admitted to killing Moore with a novelty knife he carried. Police were unable to find the knife, which was was etched with the words "Redneck Toothpick."
Prosecutors said Wheeler allegedly used the large, fixed-blade knife — just like he did during an armed robbery and attempted robbery of a Taco Bell in Cherokee and a Shell in Cobb in 2000.
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Evans said such a knife was Wheeler’s “weapon of choice.” No one was injured in the robberies.
The state said its case weighs heavily on phone records and the admission from Wheeler’s cousin, Cynthia Hope Wheeler, who was sentenced on tampering and burglary charges in 2016 for cleaning up the home and stealing Moore’s TV, computer and car keys.
She is expected to testify during the trial, which was a condition of her plea deal.
The murder trial will pause until Monday because Judge Mary Staley Clark will be out of town for a work conference. It is expected to wrap up by the end of next week.
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