By Michael R. Moser
What was anticipated to be a routine bond hearing for one defendant turned into a glimpse of the state's case against a pair charged in the September 2013 shooting deaths of four young Cumberland Countians on Renegade Mountain.
Bond for Brittany Lina Yvonne Moser, 25, a single mom from Dayton, TN, was set at $1 million after the short bond hearing in court. No bond is set for co-defendant Jacob Allen Bennett, 26, whose last known address was listed on Woodbridge Rd. Bennett waived his appearance in court (please see accompanying story).
The two are accused in the shooting deaths of Danielle "Rikki" Jacobsen, 22, Domonic Davis, 17, Steven Presley, 17 and John Lajeunesse, 16. Their bodies were discovered by a passerby in Jacobsen's vehicle parked on a cul-de-sac in an undeveloped subdivision on Renegade Mountain.
Moser, who has been held without bond since her September arrest, was called to the witness stand by defense attorney Kevin Bryant for the purpose of providing Judge David Patterson background information that would be supportive to a bond being set.
She testified that she had been employed at a fast food restaurant at the time of her arrest, has no savings, no job and no ability to flee the area. In addition, she has a young school-aged child, her mom and a brother living in Dayton.
Moser went on to testify that she had lived in Tennessee 12 years — 11 in Dayton and one year in Pikeville. The only time she had ever been in court prior to her arrest was in her effort to get child support from the father of her eight-year-old.
Deputy District Attorney Gary McKenzie then rose to question Moser, asking her if she knew why she was in court. She replied, "No, not really."
When pushed by McKenzie, Moser she elaborated, "I was told cause I was there when it happened."
McKenzie then asked if she was truthful to investigators after she was picked up, and again she told the judge she didn't understand the question. Finally, she indicated that she believed she had been consistent in her statements.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Dan Friel was then called to the stand and told the court the investigation into Moser's background showed no ties to Cumberland County.
He said that her story changed rapidly during repeated questioning and that Moser was "not very consistent" in what she told investigators.
"She changed her story," Friel testified, stating that she first said she was not present, then admitted later to TBI Special Agent Jason Legg that she knew Bennett "was going to kill the people at the meeting at Renegade." She later changed her story, stating she and Bennett were going to meet the four to buy drugs and later said they simply intended to rob the people they were meeting.
"Her stories continued to evolve," Friel testified.
After the shootings, Moser told investigators the pair returned to her Dayton home, stopping first at a convenience store and buying a movie at a Red Box, and then fell asleep while watching the movie.
When police showed up at her apartment, searching for Bennett, Friel testified that Moser said she did not know where Bennett was even though he was in the residence, cleaning the handgun used in the shootings.
McKenzie then requested the court set Moser's bond at $5 million, citing no ties to the community, the number of victims and her role in a coverup of the crime. "Her actions after (the shootings) were just a piece of the case."
Bryant countered that $5 million was excessive, citing her Tennessee ties and the fact she is indigent.
Patterson ruled that the state made a strong case that Moser "was there and had an active role prior to and after." The judge cited no ties or job opportunity and ruled that $1 million bond was appropriate.
He added that prior to her making a $1 million bond, he wanted to hold a bond hearing to determine where funds for such a bond were coming from and to "make sure it is a good and proper bond."
The case was continued to May 28.