Trial for Stay family slayings resumes after weeklong recess

By Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor, Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter, Cathy Hernandez - Reporter

HOUSTON - The trial for the Stay family slayings resumed Friday after a week-long recess. 

Back in the courtroom, jurors heard testimony from Sgt. James Thomas Dousay, the lead homicide investigator in the case. 

What was said?

Dousay recounted for the jury how they flew to San Diego, California, to interview Ronald Haskell’s parents as part of the Stay family murder investigation. Dousay told jurors he interviewed Ronald Haskell’s parents, Ronald Sr. and Carla Haskell, separately and that Carla Haskell seemed to be very protective of her son. He also told jurors he talked to Haskell’s brother, Robert. Dousay said Robert Haskell told him about threats Haskell made to his ex-wife, Melanie. 

What did prosecutors say?

Prosecutors claim Haskell planned out his attack because he was angry and wanted revenge against his ex-wife and his ex-wife’s sister, Katie Stay, for their divorce. Several pieces of evidence were introduced during the lead investigator’s testimony, including receipts from a Utah WalMart where Haskell bought duct tape and a pillow. 

What happened in court?

Jurors also saw surveillance video from a Utah gas station, from July 3, 2014, six days before the Stay family was murdered. The video shows Haskell filling up his vehicle with gas and then inside at the checkout counter.  When the prosecutor lead investigator was asked if Haskell seemed to be acting strange or odd, he replied "no." 

Ronald Haskell’s attorney claims the 39-year-old struggled with mental illness long before six members of the Stay family were killed in their home on July 9, 2014. His attorney had previously told the jury Haskell had been hospitalized six times prior to the killings and that voices in his head directed him to kill.

Jurors also heard testimony from a crime scene investigator who took pictures of Ronald Haskell and collected evidence the day six members of the family were killed in 2014. 

Haskell is charged with capital murder in connection with the shooting deaths of his sister-in-law, Katie Stay, her husband, Stephen Stay, and four of their children. The fifth child, Cassidy Stay, was shot but survived.

The investigator described Haskell’s demeanor as quiet and said that at one point, Haskell "didn't want to cooperate" with authorities. 

A prosecutor presented the shirt, shorts, shoes and socks Haskell was wearing on the day of the shooting, all stained with what appeared to be blood. 

The investigator also demonstrated how he also collected a sample from Haskell’s hands to test for gun residue. 

What's next?

Court documents revealed Haskell’s attorney filed for a mistrial Tuesday, claiming one of the sergeants who testified was asked an “improper question" about Haskell’s mental health and it could affect Haskell’s right to a fair trial. 

The judge denied that request. 

Dousay will continue his testimony Monday at 9 a.m.

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