Big Hill murder case proceeds

March 31, 2003 12:00 am

By AMY LINDBLOM

Two women sat grim-faced on opposite sides of a Tuolumne County Superior Courtroom Friday.

One was the mother of a young Sonora woman killed at a Big Hill house on Dec. 1, 2002. The other was the mother of the man accused of pulling the trigger.

Marsha Coons sat with friends in the first two rows of Judge Douglas Boyack's courtroom wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with a picture of her daughter below the words "We Love You Jen," on the front.

Rebecca McDaniel sat alone, at times rubbing her hands and forehead.

They waited through two hours-worth of hearings on other criminal cases before a shackled Kristopher Lee McDaniel was brought in. He was there to find out the date for his preliminary hearing.

McDaniel, 30, is charged with murdering Jennifer Coons, 21, in what Tuolumne County District Attorney Donald Segerstrom has called an instance of "fatal domestic violence." McDaniel has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and the other counts he faces — manufacturing methamphetamine, possessing a controlled substance and stolen property and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

After conferring with Segerstrom and McDaniel's court-appointed attorney, Sonora lawyer Jim Webster, Boyack set the preliminary hearing for Friday, May 23. Based on evidence presented at that hearing, Boyack will decide whether McDaniel should stand trial.

Segerstrom said McDaniel shot Jennifer Coons once in the chest and then had his drug-making partner, Jerry Coey, drive the fatally-wounded but still-alive Coons to Tuolumne General Hospital. Coons died minutes after arriving at the hospital.

Coey told sheriff's deputies he found Coons on the side of Sawmill Flat Road and denied knowing what happened to her. But sheriff's investigators soon suspected Coey knew more and that McDaniel was responsible, said Segerstrom. Deputies searched for two weeks for McDaniel before finding him hiding under a pile of clothes in a closet in a Beauchamp Drive apartment.