Prosecutor: Ex-pastor viewed victim as 'obstacle'
Posted September 29, 2009 9:48 a.m. EDT
Updated September 30, 2009 10:27 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Prosecutors laid out their case Tuesday morning in the trial of a former pastor accused of killing a Raleigh woman, painting the victim as an obstacle to his sexual advances on his male roommate.
Robert Lee Adams Reaves is charged with first-degree murder in the January 2008 stabbing death of Latrese Matral Curtis, 21.
Drivers discovered her body the morning of Jan. 30, 2008, along Interstate 540 near Louisburg Road. She was stabbed nearly 40 times in the head, neck, chest and stomach.
Prosecutors have said in previous court hearings that Reaves killed Curtis in a jealous rage because she was having a sexual relationship with his roommate, Steven Randolph, who had rebuffed Reaves’ advances.
Reaves, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Lindow said in opening statements, has a long history of trying to mentor young men and make sexual advances toward them.
"Steven was not the first person Reaves made sexual advances on," she said. "The same pattern about approaching young men started years earlier and ended with the death of what he viewed as an obstacle to that – Latrese Curtis."
Defense attorneys – reappointed last week after being dismissed at Reaves' request – did not make an opening statement.
Reaves, who at the time was a minister at Cedar International Fellowship in Durham, followed Curtis from his apartment on the night of Jan. 29, forced her to pull over and killed her, prosecutors have said.
Reaves has said he was attending a church function the night Curtis was killed, but prosecutors have said they can prove he was not there.
Lindow laid out the state's case, detailing how Curtis had been with Randolph on the night of Jan. 29 and had left his house around 10 p.m.
Around 2 a.m., Kimberly Parker, a friend of Curtis, received a call from Curtis' cell phone, but no one spoke, Lindow said. The only thing she heard was footsteps on gravel and the sound of vehicles.
"She said, 'Latrese! Latrese!' and no one responded," Lindow said.
A state trooper spotted Reaves' Chrysler Pacifica and Curtis' Nissan Sentra around 1:30 a.m. Jan. 30 but had to leave to respond to another call. When he returned later, Reaves' car was gone, Lindow said.
Later in the morning, Curtis' husband, Darin Curtis, testified that he couldn't get in touch with his wife when he awoke the morning of Jan. 30. After trying her cell phone and calling family, he called 911 and later went looking for his wife.
He saw her car on the interstate, he said, and tried to go talk to authorities. Latrese Curtis' body, at that point, had been covered by a blue tarp.
"I showed them a picture," Darin Curtis said. "I said, 'This is my wife. This is her car. Up there, please tell me that's not her under that tarp.'"
Prosecutors also questioned several motorists who found Curtis' body. James West, who lives near I-540, said two people were at the scene and a third was on the phone when he arrived.
"I pulled up and asked what was going on, and they said she was dead," he testified. "I was going to make sure , but there was no need to, once I got that close."
When later questioned by Wake County sheriff's deputies, Reaves had no explanation why his car was there, said he wasn't familiar with the area and said no one had his car on Jan. 29 or Jan. 30, Lindow said.
Reaves also could not be eliminated as a match to DNA found on the steering wheel of Curtis' car, she added.
"At the end of all this evidence, the state is going to ask you to find the defendant guilty of first-degree murder," she told the jury.
If convicted, Reaves could face life in prison.
Friends of Reaves, meanwhile, said Tuesday they cannot reconcile the man they know with the crime.
"He is an awesome man of God. He knows the Bible, knows people – a very classy gentleman," said Bles Jones, a Durham minister who said he's known Reaves for three years. "It's not his character. It's just not him. I really think he was set up."