ADA – Judge Thomas Landrith dismissed jurors at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday declaring a mistrial after they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict in the trial of Faye Francis Sliger, 52, Ada, on first degree felony murder and kidnapping charges. The charges against Sliger were filed by the district attorney’s office for his alleged involvement with the kidnapping and murder of Caitlin Wooten, a 16-year-old Ada High School student, by Jerry Don Savage, who killed himself afterwards on Sept. 23, 2005. Sliger was remanded to the Pontotoc county jail to await a new trial scheduled for March 1, 2007.
Five notes passed between the jury and Judge Landrith, the last of which read, “We cannot reach a verdict,” sent by Alvin Waddell, jury foreman. The first known impasse was 11-1 in favor of a guilty verdict on the felony murder charge. A note sent to Judge Landrith said the jury wanted to replace one of the jurors, who might be physically ill. The judge requested clarification and called the jury back into the courtroom.
“Five days of our time have been spent in this trial, and after deliberating two and a half hours it is reported to me you are experiencing difficulty in arriving at a verdict,” Landrith said. The judge instructed the jury to continue deliberations to reach a verdict.
When the jury reached another impasse, voting 9-3 in favor of a guilty verdict considering the lesser charge of kidnapping, the jury was brought back to the courtroom. Judge Landrith asked each juror if he or she agreed with the report from the foreman that a unanimous decision could not be reached, and each answered, “Yes.”
David Smith, attorney for the defense, said, “Round one is a draw. We will fight again. I am glad we didn’t get a guilty verdict.”
“I don’t see how there could be a question in this case,” said Chris Ross, prosecuting for the state. “I’m sure the jurors worked hard and did the best they could. I don’t know if the law wasn’t made clear to them or how they deliberated.”
“In the 130 plus trials I’ve heard, this is the first hung jury I’ve had, unable to reach a verdict,” Landrith said. “I’ve never had to call an alternate back.”
One witness was called by the defense to testify on Wednesday morning before closing remarks were made to the jury. Dick W. Frye, private investigator, was retained by the defense in early October 2005 to conduct a reconstruction of the facts according to the previous law enforcement investigation. Frye testified he had found matters of interest and crucial evidence not recovered at the location where the bodies of Caitlin Wooten and Jerry Savage were recovered.
“I found a 9 mm shell casing at the scene which matched the shells in the magazine of the pistol recovered previously,” Frye said.
Frye also testified he disagreed with the diagram sketched by OSBI Agent Iris Dalley both in directions indicated in relation to the bodies found and orientation of the fallen tree and stump where Wooten may have been seated before she was killed.
“The diagram is confusing and inaccurate. The uprooted tree is reversed, the stump should be on the northwest of the diagram,” Frye said.
After examining photographs of the scene, Frye pointed out to Ross the root of fallen tree was facing south confirming the inaccuracy of the sketch.
“I told Sheriff Pete Peterson I found the shell casing and marked the spot for him to find it with a Q-Tip, however after checking for several weeks, law enforcement had not taken the casing into evidence,” Frye said. “I finally retrieved the casing myself taking custody of it until trial.”