KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Christy Robel cried on the stand Monday as she recounted her struggle to free her 6-year-old son from his seat belt before he was dragged several miles to his death.
"I tried to get him out," Robel said during questioning by Jackson County Prosecutor Bob Beaird. "I was just frantic. I was just screaming and hollering to stop so I could get him out."
Robel testified about the sequence of events of February 22, 2000, during the first-degree murder trial of Kim Davis, who prosecutors claim intentionally dragged Jake Robel to his death while trying to steal a vehicle.
Davis could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.
But while conceding that Davis is responsible for the boy's death, Defense Attorney Christopher Slusher said Davis had no idea that Jake was hanging outside the vehicle, entangled in a seat belt, as Davis sped down Interstate 70.
Robel had left her keys in the ignition, with her son inside, while she went into a sandwich shop in Independence. When she saw Davis trying to steal her vehicle, she ran outside and tried to pull Jake from the Chevrolet Blazer.
Had son in arms
For a moment, Robel had her son in her arms as Davis backed the vehicle out of its parking spot. However, still entangled in the seat belt, Jake was snatched away when Davis sped off.
"I had a hold of him until the car took off," Robel said. "And then, I couldn't hold on."
Robel then frantically chased the vehicle as she yelled, "He's stuck, he's stuck, he's stuck," she said. "You're dragging him, you're dragging him and he's dead."
During his opening statements, Beaird said the state would show that "the defendant intentionally and deliberately" dragged Jake Robel to death to avoid being caught after stealing the vehicle.
Witnesses will testify that they saw Jake "hung up, being drug bouncing against the side of the car, bouncing against the side of the tire repeatedly," Beaird said.
A chaotic scene
But Slusher said Davis did not know the boy was stuck in the seat belt.
"Kim Davis is responsible for the death of Jake Robel and he'll have to carry that weight the rest of his life," Slusher said in opening statements. "The question is how is he responsible?"
Slusher argued that it was a chaotic scene as Robel and a witness from the sandwich shop attempted to stop the vehicle as Davis tried to drive off. Amid the confusion, Davis thought Robel had freed her son. That's when he "gunned it" and did "everything he could to get out of there," Slusher said.
It wasn't until motorists stopped the vehicle several miles away that Davis realized the boy was there, Slusher said. That's when Davis put his hands on his head and exclaimed, "Oh God, I didn't do that," Slusher said.
Among other witnesses called to the stand were two employees of a bar in the same strip mall as the sandwich shop. Davis had stepped into the bar just before the incident to call his sister for a ride, the witnesses said. He was supposedly waiting outside for his sister when he stole the vehicle.