SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Sioux City’s Fire Marshal and Investigator Joe Rodriguez was first on the stand for Day 2 of the Jordan Henry murder trial. Rodriguez is the state’s 20th witness in the case, after calling 19 people to the stand Tuesday, including friends and family of both the victim and the defendant.
Rodriguez, who has spent many years with Sioux City Fire Rescue, confirmed early in his testimony that the fire found in room 102 of the Wingate by Wyndham Hotel was located between the two beds. In photographs submitted into evidence on day 1 of the trial, you can see one of the beds has been moved, with the mattress moved off of the bed frame. The smoke alarm in room 102 was also missing, which Rodriguez confirms, but says the sprinkler head was still intact. Rodriguez testified that the sprinklers are programmed to go off when the temperature in the room reaches 155 degrees. A separate smoke alarm horn in the room was covered to muffle its sound.
READ MORE: Read our twitter thread from Day 2 of the trial
A clock radio was also found in the bathroom and the power breaker to the room had been tripped. A photograph of the clock radio showed water seeping from its buttons.
In a photograph entered into evidence by the state, a phone book and cigarette is shown burned in the area between the beds in the room. Rodriguez says the phone book was used to start the fire on the bedding located on the floor between the beds. Underneath this burned bedding, was Elizabeth Bockholt. Fire investigators also found the smoke alarm within the fire debris and it had been damaged, melted by the fire. A cell phone battery and cell phone were also found in fire debris, both severely damaged.
A pair of underwear was also found in the room with the initials J.H. on the waistband. During day 1 of the trial, Sioux City Police detailed how they had also taken a pair of underwear from Jordan Henry, who had been arrested in the backyard of a relative's home hours after the fire. The underwear taken from Henry also contained the initials J.H. on the waistband.
In his testimony, Rodriguez states that following his investigation, the fire in the hotel room was set by someone and was not an accidental fire. He also states that there was no evidence to support the use of an accelerant in the fire and that the fire was small. In testimony Tuesday from Sioux City Fire Rescue firefighters who responded to the hotel, they stated they only had to use a small amount of water to extinguish embers in the bedding.
Another fire investigator with the Sioux City Police Department also took the stand Wednesday, confirming the fire was not accidental. “We determined it was an intentionally set fire,” he said, that began between the beds and was started with paper.
Evidence taken from Henry at the Sioux City Police Department included swabs taken from his hands. Two DNA samples were found on his right hand and under his fingernails, one was Henry’s, the other was not determined. On his left hand, the same samples were taken with the same results. Blood was not discovered on his hands.
“According to the lab report where the swabs were analyzed, they determine there were at least two DNA samples but they were not able to identify the 2nd DNA profile,” said Irina Brodsky. She was the Sioux City Police Department Identification Technician that collected samples from Jordan Henry.
Following a 15 minute recess, the state called their 24th witness, a Sergeant from the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility where Jordan Henry was an inmate in early January of 2019. On January 4th around 12:40, Henry made a call to “Liz”, later determined to be Elizabeth Bockholt, asking her to come and get him from the prison when he is released. Henry was released from the Fort Dodge facility on January 16, 2019 and was taken to the bus stop in Fort Dodge by a corrections officer. He arrived by bus to Sioux City on January 17, 2019. An audio recording of the call was played in court and though difficult to understand, Henry can be heard asking "Liz" to "come get me."
Henry had spent roughly 20 months behind bars at that point for a 5-year prison sentence for 2nd-degree theft before he was released on parole on January 16, 2019.
30-year-old Henry is on trial for the murder of 40-year-old Bockholt on January 24, 2019. He waived his right to a jury trial, meaning Judge Steven Andreasen will be deciding his case. Henry faces a mandatory life sentence without parole if found guilty of 1st-degree murder and 25 years for 1st-degree arson. In March of 2019, Henry had initially pleaded guilty to the charges, writing a letter to the judge stating he didn't like all of the publicity his case was receiving and wanted to be sentenced as soon as possible. He withdrew that letter and his plea not long after.
READ MORE: Trial begins for Jordan Henry, Sioux City man accused of murder and arson
A friend and former girlfriend of Jordan Henry also took the stand Wednesday. In her testimony, she states she ran into Henry at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Saturday, January 19th, three days after his release from prison. He asked her for money and a ride, which she declined to give. In her testimony, she also stated that Henry had indicated that he would be at various places where she believed he would have access to drugs. He had also told her on this night that he was high. Henry had used her cell phone to make two calls Bockholt’s number.
After a nearly two hour break for lunch, Dr. Jonathan Thompson, a criminal forensic pathologist for the State of Iowa took the stand to discuss Bockholt’s autopsy report. Detailing photos taken during the autopsy, Dr. Thompson pointed out injuries and markings on Bockholt’s neck he states are consistent with strangulation, including visible bruising and ligature marks. As pointed out by Dr. Thompson, "those findings are consistent with strangulation." Dr. Thompson says there were possibly two ligatures, or possibly hands used to strangle Bockholt, saying it was hard to determine exactly which. Dr. Thompson also addressed internal bleeding, or hemorrhaging, within her neck that indicated a strong force on her neck that caused the blood vessels to break. There were also partial-thickness burns on Bockholt’s back and right arm.
“Determination of time of death in forensic pathology is not anything like on TV,” Dr. Thompson says when asked if he could determine Bockholt’s time of death. Her autopsy was performed on January 26th, more than 36 hours after she was found in the hotel room.
READ MORE: Read our Twitter thread from Day 1 of the trial
Henry, sitting in front of the television used to show the autopsy photos, did not seem to show any reactions to either the photos or Dr. Thompson’s verbal report. Bockholt’s family and friends are present in the courtroom as well and have been through the duration of the trial. Many are seen visibly crying during the presentation by Dr. Thompson.
“I certified her cause of death as strangulation,” said Dr. Thompson on Bockholt’s cause of death. He states the fire did not kill her, as tests showed no smoke inhalation or soot in her airway. Dr. Thompson also discovered blunt force trauma and bruising on Bockholt’s head, chest, abdomen, legs and hands. A toxicology report showed nicotine, cotinine (found in things like tobacco), and remnants of meth in her system, though Dr. Thompson said it wasn’t clear if meth was used immediately before her death.
Under cross-examination from Henry’s public defender, Billy Oyadare asks Dr. Thompson how he determined her death was by strangulation, and not by drug use. "She had recently used meth, but in my opinion strangulation was the cause of death,” Dr. Thompson replied, "she's got red marks across her neck, the side of her neck, hemorrhages on her face. Somebody strangled her."
Criminalist and toxicology specialist Justin Grodnitzky with Iowa’s Department of Criminal Investigations testified that no alcohol was found in Henry’s blood drawn following his arrest in the early morning hours of January 25th, but there was meth in his system.
Following the testimony from Grodnitzky, the state’s 27th witness, the state rested its case. Oyadare, Henry’s public defender began by seeking acquittal of both charges against Henry, claiming the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Henry killed Bockholt and set fire to room 102 of the Wingate Hotel in Sioux City.
Day 2 of the trial wrapped with the state resting its case. The trial will resume Friday afternoon to hear witnesses from the defense.
Web articles from my time at Siouxland News.