CANTON — A skull. A shoulder bone. Tiny hand and foot bones. A spine laying in the foliage of a wooded area. One by one, photo evidence was shown to jurors of the skeletal remains of 24-year-old Lacey L. Yekel Friday afternoon in St. Lawrence County Court in day two of the murder trial of Christopher A. Hebert.
“Oh my baby, look what was left of her,” Ms. Yekel’s mother, Bonnie Sue Lamay, was heard whispering as an image was displayed of a partial human skeleton.
State police investigators who testified said they sought the assistance of New York State Museum anthropologists to lay each bone out where they would be in a body.
“That’s all they have,” Ms. Lamay whimpered.
It was an emotional second half of the trial day for Ms. Lamany and Ms. Yekel’s cousin, Bobbie Jo French, who sat in the audience watching the images of the rust colored bones that investigators found on Aug. 28 and 29, 2014 in the wooded area behind the industrial park on Commerce Drive and Trade Road in Massena.
Both women sobbed openly, with Ms. French leaving the courtroom at one point as a close-up of the skull, decayed and with a green-like moss material on it, was displayed on the big screen.
Prior to an investigator putting on a blue latex glove and displaying one of the bones found at the scene, Judge Jerome J. Richards warned the audience and the jury what they were going to see was “gruesome” and that they should “remain calm. There shouldn’t be any outbursts.”
Hebert, in a blue button-up dress shirt and black slacks, watched jurors and those who testified. Clean shaven, his face held no expression during the showing of the woman’s remains.
Jurors also heard from two witnesses earlier in the day who were each convicted felons, adding to the two that testified Thursday.
Jason S. Smith, an inmate serving 20 years for first-degree robbery, said Hebert admitted to him that he killed Ms. Yekel, while a second man, James Waite, said while he and Hebert were in St. Lawrence County jail together in September through December, Hebert opened up to him, admitting that when they saw an image of Ms. Yekel on television, Hebert told him “that’s not what she looked like the last time I saw her.”
Defense attorneys Daniel C. Ramsey, Massena , and Peter A Dumas, Malone, attacked the credibility of the criminal witnesses, questioning their motives.
Mr. Waite said he had not reached out to police and the DA’s office but that it was the other way around, whereas Mr. Smith admitted to having used what he knew to cut a deal.
Mr. Smith said he met Hebert about 20 years ago while both men were in the St. Lawrence County jail together and embarked on a relationship that was crime-related.
But during those 20 years, Mr. Smith said he had never seen Hebert as shaken as he was on a night in June 2014 when he came to his 17½ Parker Ave., Massena residence, confessing to the murder of 24-year-old Ms. Yekel.
Hebert, 46, formerly of 14759 Route 37, now an inmate at the St. Lawrence County jail, is charged with the June 7, 2014 second-degree murder of Ms. Yekel.
“I seen him in a stage I never seen him before,” Mr. Smith told St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua. “He was crying and emotional. He told me he killed a girl.”
Hebert first went to Joshua Lashomb, a friend of Mr. Smith, looking for help, he testified.
“He asked me if I wanted to know who it was (he killed). I said yes. He told me it was Lacey Yekel,” Mr. Smith testified.
Mr. Smith knew Ms. Yekel through her father, Robert Yekel, whom he also met while incarcerated.
He said Hebert told him he had been partying with Ms. Yekel and when he woke up he had money missing, took Ms. Yekel out back behind an industrial park in Massena, freaked out and started hitting her in the face with a rock.
“She told him ‘look what you did to my face,’” Mr. Smith testified to what Hebert relayed to him. “He said due to his criminal history an assault or a murder wouldn’t matter so he choked her to death.”
Hebert asked Mr. Smith for help, to which Mr. Smith agreed, saying he was afraid of what Hebert might do to him if he declined and that he wanted the man out of his house. At Hebert’s request, Mr. Smith gave him money for hacksaws and a shovel, a hoodie and sneakers.
Mr. Smith testified that Hebert told him he needed to dismember Ms. Yekel’s body and bury it before it started to decompose.
Hebert left the house and the following day, Mr. Smith said he decided not to help him further, he testified.
Days later, while Hebert was being held in St. Lawrence County jail for ramming a Massena police car, Mr. Smith received a call from him.
In the call, which was recorded and played during the trial Friday morning, the voice, identified as Hebert’s, is heard saying to Mr. Smith “have you talked about anything about our friend out there? I never had a chance to take care of that. That’s eventually going to be something to pop out of nowhere … Let our animal friends do their jobs. I wish I could have taken care of that.”
Mr. Smith said he knew the location Hebert was talking about by the industrial park where Ms. Yekel was found because he had been involved in a burglary out there.
Ms. Yekel was last seen by her mother on June 4, 2014, but had not been reported missing prior to the Aug. 29, 2014, discovery of the body, two days after what would have been her 25th birthday. Her body was found partially wrapped in a wooded area across the road from the NYSARC bottle redemption center in the Massena Industrial Park, just off Route 420.
Mr. Pasqua said detectives also found her clothes that Hebert allegedly tried to hide under a rock, a tarp she was wrapped in and her cell phone that Mr. Pasqua said Hebert threw away from the body so they couldn’t identify her.
“But they didn’t find a body,” Mr. Pasqua said. “They found bones.”
He said animals picked her bones clean.
Mr. Smith said he had been at the scene where Ms. Yekel’s body was found again in August 2014, stealing copper with Mr. Lashomb from the ARC, and when he and Mr. Lashomb went to hide from an oncoming vehicle, that was when he told Mr. Lashomb about Ms. Yekel’s body.
On Thursday, Mr. Lashomb testified he contacted police in August 2014 with that information in turn for a deal that would get him and Mr. Smith out of jail and charges against them in St. Lawrence and Oswego counties dismissed.