Conflicting claims mark opening of Beloit homicide trial

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Adams Publishing Group Jacob Davenport, right, sits with defense attorney Michael Murphy in Rock County Circuit Court in Janesville on Monday as Davenport's trial began. He is accused of murdering a man in Beloit in February.

JANESVILLE - The fate of a defendant who stands accused of murdering his drug dealer in Beloit on Feb. 9 rests on who should be believed, attorneys indicated as a trial began Monday in Rock County Court.

It also rests on surveillance videos and phone records.

But the case will not include a murder weapon, DNA or fingerprints.

Jacob M. Davenport, 38, of Beloit is accused of shooting and killing James M. Tomten, 28, whose body was found in an SUV in the 800 block of Vine Street in Beloit on Feb. 9.

Tomten dealt crack cocaine, but also was a loving husband and father, Assistant District Attorney Alex Goulart told a jury in his opening statement.

Defense attorney Michael Murphy said Tomten constantly called Davenport, offering to sell cocaine and trying to keep Davenport hooked.

"Keep him hooked. That's what Mr. Tomten wanted Mr. Davenport around for," Murphy said.

Goulart said Davenport, desperate for money and angry with Tomten about a dispute over a woman, shot and killed Tomten.

Davenport faces a life sentence if convicted of first-degree intentional homicide.

"On the day he was killed, Mr. Tomten was at the Save-A-Lot in Beloit, buying baby ointment for his daughter," Goulart told the jury in his opening statement.

Goulart went on to describe a video from the Save-A-Lot showing a person getting into the passenger seat of Tomten's Cadillac Escalade.

Murphy said the video shows a caucasian male getting into the car, and that video led to "tunnel vision" by investigators, who he said never considered any other suspect, even though there was evidence that others could have shot Tomten.

Witnesses will show "varying degrees of certainty that the man that got in Mr. Tomten's car was the defendant," based on his clothing and walk, Goulart said.

The two men drove off, and Tomten later was found dead.

Cellphone records will show the two men were together minutes before the shooting, Goulart said.

Murphy said the prosecution's timeline is wrong, but he didn't explain how or why. Murphy's possible witnesses include a professor of electrical/computer engineering who will discuss cellphone records and mapping, according to a court document.

Assistant District Attorney Jerry Urbik told jurors the prosecution will provide no DNA or fingerprint evidence, and will not present any confession to police.

Goulart said prosecutors will call people with criminal convictions or criminal cases pending.

"But remember that's who the defendant and Mr. Tomten associated with. They do not associate with nuns and Boy Scouts. They associate with different kinds of people," Goulart said.

In addition, Davenport told another jail inmate that he had killed Tomten, Goulart said.

Goulart said the state made no deals with any witness, but Murphy suggested that those who came forward believed they could get something in exchange for their testimony.

Murphy said Davenport began using crack cocaine "thinking he could handle it, but it took over everything in his life. He lost his house. He nearly lost his wife and kids. He lost a lot of work, he lost a lot of weight, but he was getting over it."

Davenport planned weeks before the shooting to move his family to Texas and told people he wanted to get sober and get away from the dope that was all too available in Beloit, Murphy said.

Murphy questioned why an addict would kill his dealer, and he questioned Goulart's description of Davenport's motives.

Davenport was waiting on a tax return so he and his family could pay for their new life in Texas, Murphy said. Although he needed money, Davenport wasn't so desperate he would have killed someone, Murphy said.

The other motive Goulart raised, that Tomten had disrespected Davenport's girlfriend, was true, but three weeks before the shooting the two discussed it, shook hands and never discussed it again, Murphy said.

The jury also will see a video showing the Cadillac turning onto Vine Street in Beloit before stopping in a snowbank, where Tomten was found dead, and the killer getting out and fleeing, Goulart said.

Murphy told jurors that some people will say they can tell the man who fled the car was Davenport, and others won't be able to identify him, but jurors could judge for themselves. If they can identify him, "then that's all you need," Murphy said.

Police earlier said Tomten was a Janesville resident, and court records show Tomten living at a Janesville address in a child-support case last year.

Urbik said Davenport's girlfriend will testify. He cautioned jurors that she might not want to testify, and he might have to "respectfully but firmly" direct her to answer questions.

Tatiana Guerrero Tomten, Tomten's wife, was first to take the stand. She said she was living with Tomten and her three children in South Beloit, Illinois, at the time of the shooting.

Guerrero Tomten said her husband was a good father to their daughter and to her two other children.

Guerrero Tomten discussed the day her husband died, often tearfully. She dodged Goulart's questions about whether her husband was a drug dealer, saying she had never seen him sell drugs, and she couldn't remember what she had told a detective.

A jury of eight women and six men is scheduled to hear the case throughout the week.

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