PRINCETON — Sex, lies and a drug-laced subculture were at the forefront of testimony Wednesday in the trial of a Mercer County woman accused of killing and beheading her boyfriend’s son.
Roena Cheryl Mills, 43, of Rural Retreat, Va., is charged with first-degree murder in the 2018 Easter Sunday homicide of Bo White, 29, at his Clover Lane house in Lerona.
White’s decapitated body was discovered April 1. His head was later found nearby in a wooded area.
The case is being presented before Mercer County Circuit Court Judge Mark Wills.
The prosecution’s witnesses Wednesday included authorities who testified to evidence and Bo White’s injuries, as well as family and friends of the victim who spoke of his relationship with the accused and the timeline before and after his death.
Bo White’s father was also called to the stand where he explained why he initially lied to police about finding his son’s body, saying he thought it was an April Fool’s prank.
Mills displayed little emotion during the day’s testimony. She wore a white V-neck shirt and sweater that allowed exposure of a tattoo on her chest reading, “Special Kinda Crazy.”
Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler called medical examiner Alan Mock to testify about information gleaned during Bo White’s autopsy.
In addition to the decapitation, Mock said there were multiple sharp force injuries to Bo White, including two stab wounds to the neck, 13 stab wounds to the chest, two stab wounds to the abdomen and one stab wound to the back.
Mock also testified that Bo White suffered blunt force trauma to his head.
Sitler asked if the head wounds could be consistent with blows from a wrench, to which Mock answered, “Yes.”
Mock said White had blunt force injuries to the head and sharp force injuries to his body. “It was an assault from someone. I called it a homicide.”
Upon cross examination by defense attorney Ward Morgan, Mock testified there was no evidence that White was alive when he was decapitated.
Morgan questioned Mock about the need for “lots of strength” to inflict the injuries then zeroed in on multiple loose hairs found in White’s hand.
“They certainly weren’t small hairs … they were long enough for me to see,” Mock said.
Warden asked if this indicated signs of a struggle.
“Hair recovered from a body is always appropriate to collect,” Mock said. “To my knowledge, it was not processed. It was released to the law enforcement agency that requested it.”
Again quizzed about White’s fitness, Mock said, “He looked like a healthy young man to me that was involved in a significant struggle that cost him his life.”
Camp Creek resident Joe Fleming, a Navy veteran who served for 20 years, testified that he came to know Mills when she “took care of him for a couple of weeks” after health issues.
Fleming testified Mills was at his house on the Friday before the murder. She cleaned his house and stayed the night, he said.
Fleming said Mills left his house around noon on Saturday, but then came back late that night.
“She wound up that night coming over. She was wanting gasoline and a chainsaw. She was agitated — she was very determined to do something,” Fleming said..
“When she wanted the chainsaw and gasoline, she said she was having a bonfire,” Fleming continued. “I gave her gasoline but not a chainsaw. I don’t allow my tools to leave my property.”
Fleming testified that he believed Mills to be under the influence at that time, and also said that he received “a lot of calls” from her that night.
“She called me half a dozen times wanting me to come get her,” Fleming said, then explaining that he doesn’t leave his property after dark.
Fleming said after giving Mills the gasoline, he heard from her again around 4 a.m. “She needed a ride,” he said.
Upon questioning by defense attorney Sid Bell, Fleming said he trusted Mills completely and described her as a “very calm” and reliable person.
Fleming also testified that Mills had a cut on her hand when she visited him late that Saturday night.
“It was a bleeding cut,” he said, noting he did not ask her about it “because she was agitated.”
Sitler called the victim’s father, James White, to the stand, and it was acknowledged that James White had been a suspect in his son’s death.
James White said he had previously been a long-haul trucker until he “lost everything he had” after becoming addicted to pain killers.
Mills and James White met in 1995 or ‘96 at the Southern Exposure strip club in Kellysville, James White said, and they were involved in the same subculture.
“You and Roena were lovers?” Sitler asked James White.
“Yes,” White responded.
James White also acknowledged that four or five years ago he had a falling out with his son because Bo White was trying to sleep with Mills. However, he indicated “all of that was water under the bridge.”
James White testified that he, his son, Mills and Amanda “Mandy” White (no relation to James and Bo White) were together on the day before Bo White’s death. He said Mills took Bo White home on Saturday evening, and the last time he spoke to his son was around 11:30 p.m.
The next day, April 1, James White started calling his son and, after receiving no answer, went to check on him.
“I walked in through his living room to the bedroom,” James White said. “I saw what appeared to be someone laying in the floor. I nudged him with my boot and realized there was nothing” from the neck up.
White said he thought it was an April Fool’s prank, and left the house. He said he didn’t have a cellphone so he could not call authorities.
An admitted addict, James White said he “needed to shoot up” and went looking for drugs.
James White also said he initially lied to police about going to his son’s house Sunday morning. In a subsequent interview with authorities he did admit to visiting the house and seeing the body.
Under cross-examination, Bell hammered the theory of Mills having a sexual relationship with Bo White and quizzed James White vehemently about why he did not contact authorities when he first found his son’s body.
“He was lying there in blood with no head in his own bedroom and you expect us to believe you thought he was playing a joke on you?” Bell asked.
Bell noted that it took James White “20 years to get Roena,” and then she started going out with his son.
“She was not sleeping with my son,” James White responded.
“You would be upset about that, wouldn’t you?” Bell asked.
Called by the prosecution, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office Detective Logan Addair stated he did witness the autopsy of Bo White but was unaware of the hair in the victim’s hand until he received the autopsy report, which was “not long before this trial.”
The hair has now been sent to the crime lab for identification, Addair said.
Addair said he was dispatched to the crime scene on April 1 after a call was received from Bo White’s mother who advised she had found her son dead.
Addair said a glove was found near Bo White’s decapitated body that matched a glove Mills was wearing earlier in the day when she was taken into custody by another deputy.
During the questioning, the prosecution displayed photos of Bo White’s house showing blood on a doorway, blood on dishes draining near the kitchen sink, bloodstain along cabinets, blood on the door to the victim’s bedroom and blood covering a wrench.
Addair testified that a blood smear was found on a desk in the victim’s bedroom, and a knife was also found under the desk.
While processing the scene, five knives were found, Addair said.
“They were kitchen steak knives,” he said. “They were bent completely.”
A photo of a knife in the vehicle Mills was driving was also shown during the testimony.
Addair said an imprint of blood and hair found on the vehicle was “consistent with the victim’s head being laid on the vehicle.”
Bo White’s phone was found in his back pocket, Addair said, explaining that his body (fingerprint) was used to unlock the device.
Authorities were able to compile a timeline of texts and calls by Bo White, Addair stated, noting he did not contact anyone late in the evening.
Mills, meanwhile, made more than two dozen calls, Addair testified, noting she reached out to numerous people.
Upon questioning by Sitler, Addair said six items were sent to the crime lab for testing. They included a Mountain Dew can, gloves, one knife, a blood sample from the desk, there lifted latent fingerprints and a DNA sample.
Bell, when cross-examining Addair, asked why so few items were sent to the crime lab in a first-degree murder case.
“I was only allowed to send six items,” Addair said. “If it were up to me I would have sent all of it.”
“So you agree with me?” Bell asked.
Bell later asked Addair if both Bo and James White were “involved with Roena?”
“It was suspected,” Addair responded.
Mills trial will resume Thursday in Mercer County Circuit Court.
— Contact Samantha Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org