TAMPA — Elalia Walker died of brain injuries in October 2007, seven days after she jumped from a moving van.
The van's driver went on trial Tuesday, accused of her murder.
Prosecutors say Stanley Larry Telfare, a former Blake High School custodian, kidnapped Walker, a secretary at the school, punctuating months of harassing his on-again, off-again lover. The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office charged the Temple Terrace man with first-degree murder because Walker, 40, died as the result of injuries sustained during the commission of the kidnapping, a felony crime.
But Telfare's attorney, Nick Sinardi, told jurors that no kidnapping or murder occurred. Walker left a school parking garage with Telfare voluntarily — in fact, driving her own van — and jumped from it on her own volition.
This isn't the first time Telfare, 48, has been suspected of violence against women. A girlfriend was killed in 1998 when a gun went off during a struggle with Telfare, and police accused him in 2005 of beating another girlfriend with a car anti-theft club.
Police ruled the first case an accident; the latter was dropped after prosecutors couldn't find the girlfriend to testify.
In the current case against Telfare, his defense scenario was at odds with the state witnesses' testimony Tuesday.
The victim's former bosses and co-workers recalled how a judge had dismissed the protective injunction Walker sought against Telfare in May 2007.
Blake High principal Jacqueline Haynes told her two employees, who were both married, to stay away from each other. But other colleagues testified that Telfare kept hanging around.
The night of Oct. 11, 2007, Walker collected tickets at the school's junior varsity football game. Telfare waited for her in the school's parking garage, smoking cigarettes and sending her a text message that said he was at her gold Chrysler van.
Telfare's attorney said the pair's first stop after they left the garage was at a mosque parking lot, where they began to have sex. Telfare stopped the act, his attorney said, and Walker grew angry, accusing him of telling her husband about their affair.
Prosecutors and the defense attorney agree that they traveled to the Orange River Estates subdivision in Temple Terrace, where a resident walking his dogs said he saw a man and woman arguing outside the van.
The resident said he saw a man matching Telfare's description hit the woman and then throw her limp body back into the van. By the time police arrived, the van was gone.
Later, at a nearby milk and juice processing plant, a security guard saw something fly out of the van, which then crashed into a metal gate. Telfare told the guard that Walker had jumped.
Instead of calling 911 or seeking medical attention for her, Telfare drove with Walker in the van to his wife's home and then to Walker's home. By the time they arrived at her home, Walker was bleeding profusely from the head.
She told her sister, Early Coleman, that she had jumped from the vehicle. She slipped into a coma before Coleman or anyone else ever got the chance to ask why.
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3337.