3.08.2009

Officer testifies at murder trial

☛ TS Officer testifies at murder trial
Sean Garmire/The Times-Standard
Posted: 02/11/2009 01:15:23 AM PST

A recording of the 911 call made to police by Rodney Groh, a 55-year-old man accused of killing his long-time friend and roommate, was played for a jury Tuesday, during the second day of his murder trial.
The call was made by Groh from room 117 at the Budget Hotel, on the night of May 22, the night 61-year-old Eureka man George Giguere was pronounced dead from blunt force trauma. In the call, Groh reported he was not certain if Giguere was alive or dead, but added, “He's my buddy.”
James Flynn, acting captain of the Eureka Fire Department, was one of the first to respond to the incident. At the Tuesday trial, Flynn testified after arriving at the Budget Motel, responders found Giguere's still-warm body lying supine on the hotel room floor.
Upon arrival, Flynn said they found Groh inside the room, attempting to feel for Giguere's pulse. Flynn said Groh was asked to move away from the body, which was dressed only in a T-shirt, socks and underpants. According to Flynn, Groh was hesitant to move away from the body, but after he was asked several times, he moved into the hallway, where he began to pace nervously, while punching and kicking the walls, “mumbling incoherently” and yelling George's name.
Flynn said he noticed Groh's hands and shirt were spotted with dried blood. When he asked him about the blood marks, Groh replied he and Giguere had been in a fight with two other men in the hotel parking lot a few hours earlier.
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Shortly after Flynn's arrival, Eureka Police Department officer Edward Wilson arrived at the scene and began questioning Groh in the dark hallway outside the room.
Testifying at the trial Tuesday, Wilson said he immediately smelled alcohol on Groh's breath.
Wilson said he questioned Groh about the alleged fight in the parking lot, but Groh was not able to give a description of the two men, except to say they were bigger than he was.
After the alleged fight, Groh told Wilson, he returned to the room with Giguere, where they washed themselves, before Giguere suddenly became weak and collapsed.
During the questioning, Wilson said Grow “was upset -- crying at times, frantic at times.”
At one point Wilson said Groh asked him to stop taking notes, then said if he found the two men “he would take care of them himself.”
Wilson and another officer later searched the parking lot for signs of a scuffle, but found no evidence one occurred, he testified.
Groh was then handcuffed and taken into custody at the Humboldt County jail, where he was returned Tuesday afternoon on $1 million bail. His trial is scheduled to continue through the week.
Sean Garmire can be reached at 441-0514 or sgarmire@times-standard.com.