Trial begins in 25-year-old Las Vegas slaying

The death penalty case for 61-year-old Charles Conner began Friday, featuring testimony from a dozen witnesses, including the victim's father, and photographs of the bloody crime scene.

Conner is accused of the June 1985 slaying and rape of 23-year-old U.S. Airman second class Beth Lynn Jardine.

Jardine was found June 3, 1985, bludgeoned to death and raped in her northeast Las Vegas apartment.

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

The 12 witnesses included retired detectives and crime scene analysts who tried to recall the initial investigation 25 years ago. Those witnesses were able to verify photographs of Jardine's apartment that included the murder weapon, a bloodied claw hammer, and ripped pants and panties.

The photographs also showed large patches of bloodstained carpet near the kitchen and a bloody trail that led investigators to believe Jardine was dragged through the apartment and into a bedroom.

Friends and neighbors testified Jardine was very outgoing, sweet and friendly, and that she often drank alcohol in excess.

Dennis Lyon, a neighbor, testified that he heard Jardine come home to her apartment with someone and then heard banging, like cupboard doors being shut, on the night before her body was discovered.

Lyon also testified he never heard any screaming or cries for help.

James Maske, who was Jardine's live-in boyfriend in June 1985, also testified. He was in jail at the time of the slaying, serving time for driving under the influence, he said. Maske testified that he believed the murder weapon was the hammer he used in his job building scaffolding at construction sites.

Jardine's father, David Jardine, took the stand and recalled getting the phone call that his daughter was murdered. He said he stayed in touch with Las Vegas investigators for decades trying to learn whether anything new had developed in the case.

The homicide case remained unsolved until 2007, when investigators were able to match DNA recovered from the crime scene to Conner through a national DNA database, according to court records.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys spent four days picking a jury to hear the case.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday morning with the cold case detective who solved the mystery expected to take the stand.

The trial is expected to finish next week.

If Conner is convicted of first-degree murder, a penalty phase would follow and the jury would decide if he should be given the death penalty.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@review or 702-380-1039.