Jury hears recording of suspect in airman's 1985 slaying

Something just "clicked" for Charles Conner.

More than two decades after Beth Lynn Jardine was found bludgeoned to death with a claw hammer in her northeast valley apartment, Conner described the slaying to Las Vegas police as "a blind rage thing."

Conner is on trial in District Court, charged with the 1985 killing and sexual assault of Jardine, a 23-year-old airman 2nd class who worked as a graphic artist and was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base.

During testimony Tuesday, a jury listened to an interview recorded in 2007 in Arkansas between Conner and two Las Vegas detectives, Kevin Manning and George Sherwood.

Manning testified Tuesday that he was able to find Conner, 61, after matching DNA recovered from the crime scene to records from a national DNA database. A bloody fingerprint from the crime scene also matched Conner, Manning said.

On the recording, Conner first told investigators he could not recall much about his time in Las Vegas because he "used to drink really heavy."

When detectives confronted Conner with DNA evidence that placed him at the crime scene, Conner responded, "I think I would've remembered that."

Conner eventually admitted meeting Jardine at a bar, leaving with her and killing her, according to the recording.

When detectives asked him how he killed her, Conner said, "I think I hit her with a hammer a bunch of times."

Up to that point, detectives had not disclosed what weapon was used to kill Jardine.

Conner said he could not recall what caused him to snap. He said that the killing didn't seem real to him and that he had a feeling of, "What happened? What happened?"

Conner said that when he was drinking, he sometimes had a temper and that "it was unpredictable."

Conner also said he recalled having anal sex with Jardine after he beat her with the hammer, according to the recording.

Conner is charged with one count of murder and two counts of sexual assault. Conner, who has thyroid cancer, could face the death penalty.

Prosecutors rested their case after Manning's testimony and that of more than a dozen witnesses over three days.

Defense counsel called Dr. Mel Pohl, who testified that, based on Conner's statements to detectives about his level of intoxication, he believed Conner wouldn't have been able to form intent.

Having a cloudy memory of the event and not being able to explain why it happened was characteristic of an alcoholic "gray out," Pohl said.

Closing arguments are expected to be made today.

If Conner is convicted of first-degree murder, a penalty phase would follow, and the jury would decide whether to impose the death penalty.

Conner is being held at the Clark County Detention Center without bail.