Murder trial opens with tearful testimony


By Michael Gresham

The Kaufman Herald 

 


Emotional testimony from the youngest of Cheri Lynn Duggan's daughters set the tone for the first day of the capital murder and aggravated sexual assault trial of Daniel Joseph Griffin.

Griffin, 35, is charged with the October 2006 murder of Duggan, 38, the mother of his 19-year-old girlfriend, at her home in the Silverado Estates, five miles east of Kaufman off County Road 101, and the sexual assault of Duggan's youngest daughter.

After jury selection on Monday, the trial got under way on Tuesday in Judge Michael Chitty's 422nd State District Court as District Attorney Rick Harrison wasted no time establishing the prosecution's case.

Harrison opened the trial by sketching out details of the events that occurred Oct. 9, 2006 resulting in what he called a "retaliation" slaying of the former Kaufman High School lunchroom worker and mother of three as well as the sexual assault of her then 15-year-old daughter by Griffin.

"This is a situation where everything was rocking along and tension was building in that house," Harrison told jurors. "Then [Griffin] just lost it."

Griffin was dating Duggan's 19-year-old daughter, Christina Harrison, when the two moved into the home just weeks prior to the incident.

"Cheri Duggan and her husband didn't like the fact that he was older, that he was on parole and that they suspected he was doing drugs," Harrison said. "Daniel Griffin didn't like the situation either. He didn't like doing chores or having to pay $400 in rent."

 

According to Harrison, as days turned into weeks, tension built in the home, leading to an altercation between Duggan and Griffin on the morning of Oct. 9, 2006 after she witnessed he and her daughter doing drugs the prior night.

"She told him she wanted him out of her house or she'd call the police," Harrison said. "He lost it. He picked up a knife, chased her toward her bedroom and stabbed her nine times in the back - one stab so severe it damaged her spinal cord. Then he lifted her head off the ground and slit her neck."

Harrison called Duggan's youngest daughter to the stand to establish what happened next. (By policy, The Kaufman Herald does not print the name of rape victims.)

Awakened by her mother's screams, the daughter testified that she ran to Duggan's room only to be met by Griffin who she described on the witness stand Tuesday as to be "covered in so much blood it was dripping from him."

In a tearful recount of events, Duggan's daughter described to jurors how Griffin bound and gagged Christina Harrison and their 17-year-old mentally challenged sister in one room before escorting the 15-year-old to another room where he forced her to have oral sex and sexual intercourse.

"He told me that if I didn't cooperate, he was going to kill [the sisters] and make me watch," said the daughter, who added that he'd also promised she could see her mother, who at the time she testified she did not know was dead.

The witness then told jurors that Griffin tied she and her 17-year-old sister up in one of the bedrooms before leaving with Christina Harrison. At some point, the youngest daughter freed herself and ran to her mother's room.

"Then I found my mom," she sobbed. "I shook her, but she didn't move. She was on the floor and there was a lot of blood. I heard [her 17-year-old sister] coming, but I couldn't say anything. I just ran out of the house and to a neighbor's house where I told them 'He killed my mom. Daniel Griffin killed my mom.'"

On Tuesday, the district attorney also called to the stand Christina Harrison, who told jurors that Griffin had told her he had killed Duggan in self defense stating that she pushed him, he pushed her and then he stabbed her once. It's a story Duggan's oldest daughter, who admitted she continued to harbor feelings for Griffin, believed up until December 2007 when prosecutors detailed the extent of her mother's injuries.

"What do you think of his story now?" the DA asked.

"His self defense story can't be true," she sobbed. "She would never hurt anyone."

Griffin's attorney Dennis Jones reserved the right to have his opening statement at a later point in the trial.

Jones spent some time Tuesday questioning the testimony of Sgt. Tim Moore, a Kaufman County Sheriff's Office criminal investigator, challenging the prosecution's theory that the suspect had pinned Duggan to the ground, stabbing her to death in the back.

"You cannot say for certain whether she was laying on her stomach on the ground or whether she was standing, can you?," Jones asked.

To which, Moore answered, "No."

In cross-examination of Duggan's youngest daughter, Jones also got the witness to describe Griffin as an "average guy who was a bit shy."

Testimony was expected to continue through Thursday.

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