PIERRE, S.D. - A soft-spoken, petite 13-year-old girl who now lives in Lander testified Friday that she loved her deceased mother but is afraid of her father, Brad Reay, who is on trial for the brutal stabbing death of the girl's mother.
Brad Reay's defense is that his daughter, Haylee Reay, killed her mother because the child was upset about the couple's possible divorce. The lawyer for the defendant, who was arrested in Casper, told jurors earlier that the girl was traumatized and remembers nothing of the crime.
Haylee told a packed courtroom she has never been close to her father but was very close to her mother. The girl said "no" when asked Friday if she would have ever hurt her mother.
Tami Reay's nude body was found near Lake Oahe two days after she disappeared last February. The woman, 41, had been stabbed dozens of times. Some of the wounds in her chest went all the way to the hilt of the knife.
Trying to show jurors that Haylee could not have inflicted those wounds, Assistant Attorney General Todd Love asked the girl how tall she is and how much she weighs. She said she is 5-foot-1 and weighs 94 pounds, but that she weighed only 80 pounds when her mother was slain.
Defense attorney Timothy Rensch, on cross examination, prodded the girl with questions about her athletic abilities. She said she was good at basketball, volleyball and soccer.
Haylee said she rarely did anything with her father. And when Love asked if she had been to the spot where her mother's body was found, the girl said she had: Her father had taken her there once to practice driving.
She also testified she thought it was odd when she got up on Feb. 8 for school and her mother was not home. She said her father told her that her mother probably was with her boyfriend and would be back in a couple of days.
Haylee said her father took her to school that day but told her not to say anything about her mother being missing. "He said don't tell anybody because it's personal," the man's daughter said.
Reay, 46, is accused of killing his wife after she told him she wanted a divorce. His lawyer told jurors at the trial opening that Reay found his daughter with a knife at her mother's bedside on Feb. 7.
Tami Reay grew up in Lander. Haylee Reay now lives there with her grandparents.
Brad Reay, a longtime Wal-Mart employee, was in the process of moving to Casper to become manager or assistant manager of a Wal-Mart store there when he was arrested.
Brad Reay looked up as his daughter walked into the courtroom Friday. While she was testifying, he watched her carefully, occasionally smiling.
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Up to that point during the trial, Reay had almost constantly jotted down notes. But he wrote very little while his daughter was on the stand.
The defendant showed no emotion Thursday when gruesome photos of his wife's mutilated body were displayed on a large projector screen.
Haylee told the jury that she was awakened by the family cat on the night her mother disappeared and saw her father standing in the doorway of her bedroom.
"He had a bunch of clothes under his arm," she said, adding that her father put down the clothes and lay with her until she fell asleep again. When she awoke the next morning, her father was doing laundry, she said.
The girl also said her father had been somber about the prospect of a divorce.
"He would just sit on his bed and not talk," she said.
Haylee said her father worked long hours, and her mother was happy about the prospect of the divorce.
"My mom said … she wanted a better life."
Haylee quickly glanced a few times at her father, who was sitting about 20 feet away. She was on the witness stand for nearly an hour and a half.
Reay, who is charged with alternate counts of first-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, is expected to take the stand at some point in his defense.
The family had lived at Billings, Mont., for 14 years before moving to South Dakota's capital a few years ago so the father could advance in the Wal-Mart organization.
A state crime lab scientist testified Friday that blood found throughout the slain woman's SUV and on her bedroom wall matched her DNA. Criminalist Kandy Smith said she also found a mix of the woman's DNA in her vehicle and could not rule out her husband as one of the contributors, either by his blood, sweat or saliva.
But Smith said her test on the mixed DNA ruled out Tami Reay's lover, Brian Clark. Clark was an assistant manager at Kmart; the slain woman was a co-worker.