STOCKTON - Haylei Jordan, who accompanied her fugitive mother on a cross-country trip last year, marked her 18th birthday Wednesday by sitting on the witness stand in a Stockton courtroom.
Wearing a black pant suit and clasping her hands in front of her, Jordan spoke rapidly, answering questions about the past few years of her life.
Jordan was the latest witness to testify in Sarah Dutra's murder trial. Now 22, Dutra is accused of helping poison her boss, Woodbridge resident Larry McNabney.
The 52-year-old Sacramento attorney was last seen alive at a Southern California horse show. His body was found buried in a Clements vineyard five months later.
Authorities launched a nationwide search for McNabney's wife, 36-year-old Laren Sims, and she was arrested in March in Florida. Two weeks later, after confessing to murdering her husband and implicating Dutra in the crime, Sims hanged herself in jail.
She left behind a trail of fictitious names, a host of transactions done with identities other than her own, and her daughter.
Jordan took the stand Wednesday, telling how she, her mother and Dutra would sign McNabney's name on checks after he disappeared.
Jordan was 17 when the forging began. Judge Bernard J. Garber granted her immunity last year in exchange for testifying in the case.
When she was 8, Jordan and her mother left their home in Florida, Jordan testified. Two years later, they wound up in Nevada, where Sims began working in McNabney's law office.
They soon moved to California, where McNabney set up a Sacramento office, which Sims managed. Dutra was hired soon after.
By the time she was 14, Jordan was working in the law office. At 16, her mother began sending her to buy marijuana, Jordan testified Wednesday. Sometimes Dutra - who had become close friends with Sims - ran the errand, Jordan said.
In 2001, McNabney began drinking more than he had previously, Jordan said.
"There would be long periods of time when Larry wouldn't come out of his room," she said, recalling only a few times during the summer of 2001 that the attorney went to his law office.
Sims sent Jordan to a farm in Maine that summer, and near the end of that trip, Jordan heard from her mother.
"She said (she and McNabney) had decided they were going to end their marriage, and he was going back to his religious sect in Washington," Jordan said.
Shortly thereafter, according to San Joaquin sheriff's investigators, McNabney was given a lethal dose of horse tranquilizer, and his body was later stored in a refrigerator inside his Woodbridge garage.
In late December 2001, local horse trainer Greg Whalen and two ranch hands loaded the refrigerator into his truck and took it to their ranch. How and when McNabney's body had been moved has not been revealed in court.
It was around that time that Sims began selling the furniture, Jordan said, and in early January, the two headed off to a three-week horse show in Arizona. They had just finished helping Whalen unload horses when his telephone rang, Jordan said.
"Greg Whalen got a call from (his wife) that the police had come to the house and were asking questions about Larry, and he told my mother that," Jordan testified.
Sims borrowed $300 from Whalen, and she and her daughter took off. It would take authorities more than a month to catch up with them.
The courtroom remained quiet throughout the testimony, and family members of both McNabney and Dutra maintained their composure for most of the day.
But near the end of her testimony, Jordan explained the Chevy Cavalier her mother bought her in May 2001.
Sims, who had no legitimate identification of her own, put the car in Dutra's name. Dutra, meanwhile, was in Italy on a foreign-exchange program.
Dutra's mother burst into quiet tears as her husband held her hand.
Testimony continued uninterrupted until Jordan was asked one last question regarding whether Dutra was afraid of Sims.
"Sarah never acted as if she was afraid of my mother. Never," Jordan said.
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