Samantha Tainewasher told a jury on Tuesday that she went to visit the graves of her mother and brother before events took a brutal turn, resulting in the murder of her cousin, Alillia “Lala” Minthorn, 25.
Tainewasher is one of two witnesses who say they were there when Minthorn was shot dead in a closed area of the Yakama Reservation in early May 2019.
The other witness is Jasmine McCormack. Both testified in U.S. District Court in Yakima on Tuesday.
Although the two claim that Stevens shot Minthorn because she told the FBI about an incident he was involved in, their recollection of the events was different.
Their stories prompted more questions than answers, and even led a defense attorney to probe McCormack to find out if she had engaged in a personal relationship with an FBI detective who had investigated the case.
Stevens sat quietly as Tainewasher recounted how events unfolded on that fateful spring day.
Tainewasher said she picked up Stevens and McCormack early that day before meeting Minthorn at a Toppenish homeless camp known as the Compound.
From there, they headed to a cemetery in Union Gap, Tainewasher said.
Tainewasher said she was the only one who got out of her SUV to visit her mother and brother’s graves. She said she returned to her vehicle to find McCormack beating Minthorn.
“I told him to stop,” Tainewash said.
Then Stevens started hitting Minthorn in the face with the butt of a shotgun, Tainewasher said.
“Jordan punched Lala in the face several times,” she said.
Tainewasher said McCormack then jumped into the driver’s seat and drove to an area north of Brownstown in the closed area of the reserve.
Tainewasher said they all got out of his vehicle and Stevens shot Minthorn.
“I heard a gunshot,” Tainewasher said. “Jordan shot him.”
Tainewasher then named Stevens in the courtroom as his cousin’s killer.
“They said Lala talked to the federal government about it, Jasmine and Jordan said so,” Tainewasher said.
They left Minthorn’s body there and proceeded to the Brownstown Tavern, Tainewasher said.
There, McCormack began cleaning his car before leaving with Stevens, Tainewasher said.
Tainewasher said he called police to report the theft of his vehicle, but the two returned about 15 minutes later.
Tainewasher said she had a spare key for her vehicle and was able to walk away, leaving Stevens and McCormack behind.
During cross-examination, defense lawyer Karla Kane Hudson asked Tainewasher why she didn’t report her cousin’s murder when she called the police about the theft of her vehicle.
Tainewasher said she was scared because Stevens and McCormack threatened her.
“I was scared after that because I was threatened – I received threats. I have children to fear, ”Tainewasher said.
She said she would have told police if she responded to his stolen vehicle call.
“Because the cops would have been there to protect me,” she said.
McCormack’s story was different in that she told the jury that Tainewasher had a fight with Minthorn. McCormack was sometimes hesitant to answer questions and often said that she didn’t remember them.
She said she had been drinking. Tainewasher admitted to having smoked methamphetamine that day.
Defense attorney Ulvar Klein asked McCormack why she decided to cooperate with investigators and testify against Stevens.
He asked her if she had developed a personal relationship with the FBI detective who was identified in the courtroom as Agent Barefoot. His first name was not given.
He even asked McCormack if she thought the agent was good looking.
“Do you have a thing for him? Klein asked.
Klein’s questioning sparked objections from prosecutors.
“There have been over 100 conversations between them in the past year,” Klein said.
Klein reviewed the transcripts of some of the calls, inquiring about an implicating Barefoot telling McCormack that he did not want to visit him in Gig Harbor because of the lawsuit and it appeared they were seeing each other secretly.
“It’s true,” McCormack replied.
Klein suggested that Barefoot promised McCormack a positive outcome in an armed robbery case she was facing to testify against Stevens.
McCormack and Stevens were pursued on May 20, 2019 by police in a stolen vehicle at Dallesport along the Columbia River and were arrested.
McCormack denied having knowledge of Minthorn’s death when he was first contacted by the detective while in jail, but later that day called him back, Klein said.
Klein read a telephone transcript from May 28, 2019 in court between McCormack and Barefoot.
“I’m ready to help but won’t say anything until I’m out,” Klein read.
A day later, McCormack led investigators to Minthorn’s body, according to a trial brief.
Klein asked McCormack if she had told anyone at the tavern that she pulled the trigger.