WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Taking the stand Friday in his own defense, Scott Robert Speakman denied killing his landlady in 2006, saying that he found her dead with a cord wrapped around her neck.
But he admitted that he cleaned up the crime scene, dragged the body of 63-year-old Loyola Strader out the front door of her house on Konnoak View Drive, and placed her body in the trunk of her white 2002 Nissan Sentra.
He told a Forsyth County jury Friday that he drove around aimlessly until he accidentally crashed the car into a ditch on Holder Road in Clemmons. He said he then moved Strader’s body to the driver’s seat and set the car on fire with gasoline he had siphoned from a nearby U-Haul truck.
He said he panicked when he found Strader’s body soon after midnight on Nov. 16, 2006, and that he was afraid police would blame him for her death because of his previous criminal history. Speakman had been convicted at age 15 on charges that he raped and sodomized an 18-month-old child and was on probation after serving a little more than 11 years in prison in Maryland.
Arika Herron/Winston-Salem JournalI was afraid of the police,” he said in Forsyth Superior Court, where he is on trial for first-degree murder in Strader’s death. “Whenever I called the police, it worked against me.”
Speakman, 33, faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder.
He gave several statements to detectives with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. Speakman initially denied he had anything to do with Strader’s death or the burning of her car, according to court testimony. When he was confronted with surveillance footage from a nearby business that showed a man matching his description setting the car on fire, Speakman told authorities essentially what he testified to on Friday.
But in a final interview with authorities, Speakman told investigators that he accidentally strangled Strader to death with a cord from a fan after she had accused him of having sex with a missing teenage girl from Silver Spring, Md. Speakman said that earlier, Strader had confronted him about a picture of the missing girl that she saw on his laptop computer.
As part of his probation, he wasn’t allowed to have unsupervised contact with anyone under 18. Speakman said he had talked to the girl and was trying to convince her to come back home.
During cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Matt Breeding asked Speakman about the discrepancy between his final statement to authorities and his testimony Friday. Speakman said that Lt. Josh Foster, who interviewed Speakman at the Forsyth County Jail, lied in his notes to make it seem as if Speakman had confessed and that investigators had yelled and screamed at him.
Foster testified Thursday that Speakman had waived his Miranda rights and had confessed after being allowed to call his sister and to smoke a cigarette.
The interview was not videotaped or recorded, and Speakman did not provide a written statement. Speakman said he was not asked. Foster said Speakman declined to write a statement.
Speakman said that he arrived in Winston-Salem on Nov. 14, 2006. He was helping Derek Nichols, whom he had met in Maryland, move into his new house. Nichols had been renting a room from Strader and had talked to Strader about having Speakman stay at the house.
Speakman said he stayed at Strader’s house the night of Nov. 14, 2006, and was with Nichols and his family for most of the next day. That night, around 10 p.m., Speakman and Strader discussed a short-term lease and then he went out the back door. He said he heard someone knock on the front door. He walked away from the house and found a spot to smoke marijuana and cigarettes, he said.
About an hour later, he returned to find Strader dead. He said he stood there for about 20 minutes. Breeding asked Speakman why he didn’t check the house to see if the alleged killer was still there or better yet, run.
Arika Herron/Winston-Salem JournalI don’t know,” Speakman said.
Speakman said that after he set the car on fire, he ended up at a hotel and the receptionist called a cab, which brought him back to Strader’s house. It had been raining, and he was wet and cold.
Speakman said he got back in the house around 7 a.m. on Nov. 16, 2006. He said he was cold and he took a hot shower.
About two hours later, investigators knocked on Strader’s front door, and Speakman answered.
Attorneys on both sides will deliver closing arguments Monday, and then the case will go to the jury for deliberation.
Credit: The Winston-Salem Journal