Friends who knew her are 40 years older than they were on the day Dawn Koons was murdered.
Witnesses are 40 years older. And so is 61-year-old Prentice Foreman, the man charged with killing then 18-year-old Koons in 1979, leaving her bruised and bloodied in her bathtub, her wrists bound behind her, a pillowcase pulled over her head.
After months of delays, Foreman’s first-degree murder trial began Monday in Kern County Superior Court.
Early testimony came from retired Bakersfield police officer Brad Roark, who was the first cop to survey the crime scene. Using investigation photos projected onto the wall of the downtown Bakersfield courtroom, Roark was asked by prosecutor Gina Pearl to walk jurors through what he saw.
Koons’ modest apartment appeared to be mostly tidy, with no obvious signs of a struggle. And yet there was the phone on the floor by the bed, the bedclothes in disarray.
The living room and the kitchen appeared normal, but when Roark reached the bathroom, it was clear something terrible had taken place.
Lying in the bathtub, only a pillowcase covering her face, was the lifeless body of the victim.
The courtroom remained silent as the gruesome scene was revealed to jurors, through photos and testimony. Later in the day, jurors and a witness would be shown photos of Koons at the Kern County Coroner’s lab, the pillowcase removed.
"Is this a true and accurate picture of what you observed when you entered?" asked prosecutor Pearl.
"Yes," Roark answered. "This is before anyone touched the room."
According to court documents, the county coroner’s office confirmed Koons died of asphyxiation. It's unclear what manner was used to deprive her of oxygen, but a pathologist testified during an earlier court hearing that smothering or strangulation were possibilities.
If convicted, Foreman faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Foreman was questioned following the discovery of the body, according to court documents. The defendant initially claimed he didn’t know Koons well and wasn’t in the complex at the time of the killing.
Decades passed without an arrest, then detectives in the Bakersfield Police Department's cold case unit got a hit on a retested semen sample from the crime scene. The sample matched the DNA of Foreman, who was subsequently arrested in December.
According to court documents and testimony, Foreman told law enforcement he had consensual sex with Koons, who lived in the same apartment complex as him at 2220 S. Real Road, months before the killing.
Due to the limitations of DNA technology at the time, law enforcement wasn’t able to make the alleged connection to Koons’ murder until the Bakersfield Police Department’s cold case unit was able to re-test DNA from the case using newer technology.
On Monday afternoon, the prosecution called Diane Deuder, a co-worker and friend of Koons. She said she thinks she recognized Foreman 40 years later as a man who was “always around” Koons’ apartment complex on South Real Road. The man creeped them out, she told the court.
But defense attorney Dana Kinnison introduced her interview with police, in which she never mentioned a black man hanging around, watching or harassing the young women.
Kinnison tried to show that the witness did, however, mention an ex-boyfriend of Koons in her interview with investigators.
On the night Koons was killed, Deuder dropped her off at about 10 p.m. When her friend didn’t show up at work or answer her calls, Deuder left a handwritten note of Koons’ door.
“Dawn,” the note read, “Give me a call and let me know what you’ve been up to. I can’t seem to track you down. You’re never home. I’ll talk to you later. Take care,
Three more prosecution witnesses are expected to testify Tuesday.