December 9, 2014

Summerfield appears briefly in court; murder
trial starts Feb. 2 and may be televised


Nathan Summerfield appeared in Dare County Superior Court on Tuesday to listen to legal motions that relate to his upcoming first-degree murder trial.

Since his last appearance three months ago, his neatly trimmed dark hair has grown a little longer. But he still wore the orange jumpsuit issued to him by his jailers.

The next time the 29-year-old Ashland, Ohio resident sits in the courtroom, it will be in front of a jury of his peers – and likely, a number of television cameras. And he most certainly will be neatly dressed in a suit and tie.

 His trial, which will take one to two weeks, is scheduled to start on Feb. 2.

Summerfield is accused of stabbing and strangling the mother of his child in 2012 during a July Fourth vacation on Hatteras Island. Prosecutors decided last year that he will not face a death sentence.

 Lynn Jackenheimer, also from Ashland, was last seen alive on the night of July 3, chasing ghost crabs with her two children. Summerfield later dropped the children off with relatives in Ohio and disappeared.

 The 13-year-old girl, Jackenheimer’s daughter from a previous relationship,  and the 3-year-old boy, her son with Summerfield, were unharmed. He was eventually tracked down and arrested on Aug. 15 in an Ohio motel room.

After a frantic search by law enforcement officials and friends and family, Jackenheimer’s body was found on July 14 in the brush off a Frisco cul-de-sac.  She was 33. 

Summerfield, who has been held without bond at Dare County Detention Center,  did not speak during the brief morning hearing, during which special prosecutor H.P. Williams read a list of pre-trial motions to Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett. The judge ruled one-by-one to either deny or allow each motion.

A total of 30 motions, most dealing with evidence, were filed by Summerfield’s attorneys, Samuel Dixon and Jackson Warmack, both from Edenton. Several others were also filed by Williams.

Warmack said after the hearing that there were no surprises in the judge’s rulings or Williams’ responses.

“It was routine,” he said.

Both sides reiterated that they will submit discovery by Jan. 5, although there was a brief discussion about the timeliness of opinions from defense experts.

Dixon said that his intention is to meet the deadline, but he had understood he had until then.

“I am just saying that we can’t comply by Jan. 5 if we don’t have anything to respond to,” Williams told the judge.

Tillett ruled that the state will have 15 days to respond once the defense attorneys submit the information. 

Williams was appointed last year to try the case because District Attorney Andrew Womble had briefly represented Summerfield when he was serving as the district’s Public Defender.
No family members were in the courtroom on Tuesday. Williams said later that he had spoken with Jackenheimer’s family, but he told them that the hearing was inconsequential and not worth the drive from Ohio.

Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett said after the hearing that he expects that the trial will be televised. Under North Carolina law, he said, cameras are allowed in the courtroom unless there is a specific reason to bar them.

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