LAFAYETTE — A witness testified Wednesday at a state District Court hearing that Debra Sue Schjenken Hewitt confessed to him that she stabbed her boyfriend during a confrontation in January 2010.
Hewitt and John Clifford Romine are both accused of second-degree murder in the killing of Dwayne Ball, 47, whose body police found in the 600 block of Buchanan Street.
Hewitt, 47, who is homeless and has been using a wheelchair since losing her right leg, confessed to police that the killing was an act of self-defense. She said she stabbed Ball in the leg while Romine, 40, whom Hewitt has said she was also dating, strangled Ball from behind. She was confined to the wheelchair at the time of the incident.
In March, Hewitt made an unsuccessful attempt in court at having her statement thrown out.
This is the third time since 2004 that Hewitt has been accused in a killing. The other two cases, which are not related to the Ball slaying, resulted in a dismissal and a reduced charge of accessory after the fact to manslaughter.
The purpose of Wednesday’s hearing was to record testimony from Jack Stovall, a man who said he who knew Hewitt, Romine and Ball from Lafayette’s homeless community. Stovall was brought back to Lafayette Parish from Michigan on a bench warrant to testify in the case.
Stovall testified that he once saw Ball threaten to kill Hewitt. He said Hewitt had also repeatedly told him that Ball threatened her on a daily basis.
After Hewitt broke up with Ball, Stovall said, he noticed a change in Ball’s behavior. He said Ball began to stalk Hewitt.
“Was Debra really fearful of Dwayne?” Hewitt’s attorney, Harold D. Register, asked.
Stovall said she was.
“Debra’s not easily scared, and Dwayne started displaying behavior that wasn’t normal,” Stovall said.
Stovall testified that he saw Hewitt borrow a knife from another man because “she needed it for protection” from Ball.
Stovall said he later ran into Hewitt, Romine and another man, whom he described as an albino, at a homeless camp.
Separately, the two defendants told him what happened, he said.
Hewitt said she stabbed Ball and that the knife had been buried, Stovall said.
Romine did not implicate himself in the crime, but he did admit to being there when it happened, Stovall said.
Stovall said Romine told him someone else held a sheet or piece of clothing around Ball’s head while Hewitt stabbed Ball.
Stovall said Romine told him that he and another person changed Ball’s clothing and put his body under a mattress beneath a tree. They then put Ball’s old clothes in a bag and threw them in a nearby canal.
Also during Wednesday’s hearing, 15th Judicial District Judge Jules D. Edwards III ruled that Hewitt is mentally fit to stand trial after two doctors found her mentally competent. Edwards also severed the case, meaning the defendants will be tried separately.
Prosecutor Pat Magee said Hewitt’s case will be tried first. A trial date has not been set.