Roger Hickok testifies in Bellows-Shaffer trial
TOWANDA - The Emily Ruth Bellows-Shaffer criminal homicide trial continued Tuesday in Towanda as the suspect's former lover, Roger Hickok, and their son, now 13 years old, testified at the Bradford County Courthouse.
Bellows-Shaffer, 55, was charged with criminal homicide in the death of Carol Hickok, who was married to Roger Hickok. Roger Hickok and Bellows-Shaffer had an extra-marital affair, which resulted in the birth of their son in 1998.
According to court papers, Carol Hickok was killed at the Hickok residence around 6 a.m. Sept. 15, 2010 at 197 Mountain View Rd. in Canton Township. Carol Hickok, who was 65 years old, was found face down at the base of an exterior set of stairs. Bellows-Shaffer told police that she wished to see her son on Sept. 15 and drove to the Hickok residence just before daybreak, and entered it.
Bellows-Shaffer claimed Carol Hickok confronted her on the night of the incident inside the residence in the hallway and a struggle occurred between the two women, and continued through the hallway and into the master bedroom.
On Monday, Bradford County District Attorney Dan Barrett told the jury in his opening statement that the evidence shows Bellows-Shaffer needed Carol Hickok "out of the way to get the life she wanted" and to get Roger Hickok.
Then, on Tuesday, Barrett's questioning drew answers that further painted a picture of Bellows-Shaffer as a woman with certain intentions.
Barrett asked Roger Hickok if he planned to get Bellows-Shaffer pregnant. Roger Hickok said he didn't plan the pregnancy, but said that Bellows-Shaffer eventually told him that she did.
"She alluded to it," he said.
Roger Hickok also testified about a text message exchange on the morning Carol Hickok was discovered dead.
He said that he sent a text to Bellows-Shaffer in which he informed her that there had been in a death in the family, and she sent a text back saying that she had trouble too - she was being evicted. But Roger Hickok said she never asked who had died.
Roger Hickok said that Bellows-Shaffer needed a home following her eviction, and she stayed in a garage/shop building on his property when a cabin there wasn't available, though he did feel that it was a "strange situation" with his wife having just passed away. He said that he "felt uncomfortable" with her there.
Later that year, Roger Hickok and the son he had with Bellows-Shaffer made plans to go to Florida in December, where Roger Hickok had a home and had wintered with Carol Hickok. The son wanted his mother, Bellows-Shaffer, to go with them, and she did, home-schooling him for the winter. Barrett said Roger Hickok provided her an allowance of $250 a week for the home schooling and routine duties around the house. Roger Hickok also testified about how he helped Bellows-Shaffer out financially on other occasions, stating that he did so because she was the mother of his son. One example was when he provided financial assistance to buy her a little more time when she was being evicted.
Roger Hickok said he was sleeping in the master bedroom in the Florida home.
He stated that Bellows-Shaffer "said, 'this bedroom is nicer than mine.'" Then, "she ended up there," he said.
Barrett asked if Roger Hickok and Bellows-Shaffer were having sex in Florida, to which Roger Hickok responded that it wasn't happening a lot, or, as he put it, not "on a big level."
Roger Hickok said he wasn't interested in Bellows-Shaffer for a second marriage. He noted that there was a "trust issue" because she had gotten romantically interested with a man in Texas, and from then on Roger Hickok said he didn't feel the same about her.
During his testimony in the morning, their son said that he, Roger Hickok, and Bellows-Shaffer acted as a family while in Florida. He said he liked his mother living with them, and they got along well and went to places like Easter brunch.
In Florida, Roger Hickok said someone introduced him to a widow, whom he started seeing. But he said that he didn't tell Bellows-Shaffer about it, anticipating her reaction. He described Bellows-Shaffer as "very dominant." He commented that she checked his phone records to see who he was talking to.
In May 2011, Roger Hickok and the son moved back to Pennsylvania. Eventually, Roger Hickok said, Bellows-Shaffer filed custody papers seeking a reversal in the custody arrangement. Roger Hickok had full custody of the son. With his permission, however, Bellows-Shaffer could visit the son, such as when she had lunch with him at his private school in Mansfield.
But Bellows-Shaffer wanted to "change it around" so that the son was her "exclusive possession," it was noted in the court proceedings Tuesday.
Roger Hickok said he thought his wife's death was a "freak accident," though he saw signs at the scene that some things didn't "jive."
Bradford County Coroner Tom Carman also testified Tuesday, and he recalled his suspicions about the incident being foul play at the time. He described all the blood that was found on various items in the bedroom such as the sheets and the dresser, but not on the deck at the house.
Roger Hickok said that he began to think of Bellows-Shaffer as a suspect in the killing, though he didn't want it to be her. But he also expressed concern that other people suspected him.
"I felt like everyone was looking at me," he said.
As for his own marriage prior to the death of his wife, Roger Hickok noted that Carol Hickok wasn't happy with his relationship with Bellows-Shaffer. He noted that there was a time when he didn't live in their house, but rather in the cabin located on the property. But he said they weren't at odds, and still spoke.
But the strain took its toll.
Carol Hickok had filed for divorce in 2002 with the divorce becoming final the next year. However, in 2004, they got a license to remarry in February and married in April.
As for the custody issue, Roger Hickok said, "I just felt he (Roger Hickok's and Bellows-Shaffer's son) would be a lot better off with me than his mother." He said he was concerned about Bellows-Shaffer's ability to provide for the boy financially and the boy being subjected to what he described as poor living conditions.
He noted that the boy and Carol Hickok were inseparable and she welcomed his as one of the family.
The affidavit filed in the case describes the incident in which Carol Hickok was killed. According to the affidavit:
While struggling, Bellows-Shaffer pushed Carol Hickok, who then fell headfirst into the dresser and struck the top of her head. The struggle continued onto the bed and eventually they rolled off the bed and back onto the floor. During the struggle, Carol Hickok was bleeding from her head wound, staining the comforter on top of the bed. The affidavit notes that the struggle eventually ended, and Bellows-Shaffer said Carol Hickok was on the floor and she was "quite certain" that Carol Hickok was dead at that time. Bellows-Shaffer then dragged the lifeless body outside the residence through an exterior door leading from the bedroom to a large deck and down exterior stairs. According to the affidavit, Bellows-Shaffer indicated that Carol Hickok's body tumbled down the last few stairs onto the ground, where the body was discovered. The affidavit notes that Bellows-Shaffer said she intended to stage the scene in an effort to make Carol Hickok's death appear accidental. Once she moved the body outside, Bellows-Shaffer said she entered the residence again, washed the blood from her hands in the master bedroom, stripped all the bedding from the bed, and put the blood-stained comforter in the washing machine and then left the residence the same way she entered and returned to her vehicle. According to the affidavit, Bellows-Shaffer then returned to her residence, which police said was in Williamsport, where she said she immediately showered and washed the clothing she had worn when the incident occurred.
The trial continues today.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.