On the day his girlfriend was found dead on his Stroud Township property, James Bidwell claimed to be in Philadelphia, a former employee said Friday, as testimony wrapped up in the first week of Bidwell's murder trial in Monroe County Court.
Earlier in the day the jury heard testimony from Wendy Serfoss, a Monroe County detective in the district attorney’s office, who said telephone cell phone records revealed Bidwell never left the Poconos on June 2, 2011, the day Kristen Wagner was found hanging in a trailer at Bidwell’s scrap yard/waste hauling business.
James Smith, who now drives a garbage truck in Allentown, said he got a call the day Wagner died from a fellow worker at Bidwell’s company who had found Wagner’s body. Smith said he then called Bidwell to tell what happened but got his voice mail and left a message. Bidwell called back 15 minutes later telling Smith he was in Philadelphia.
Asked by Michael Mancuso, the first assistant district attorney, how Bidwell reacted to news about the death, Smith recalled his boss said, “Really? You’re kidding me.”
“He sounded fine,” Smith recalled.
When Brian McMonagle, the Philadelphia attorney for Bidwell, questioned Smith’s memory about the events of that day, Smith said, “You don’t forget something like that.”
The prosecution, which claims Bidwell killed Wagner and staged her death to look like a suicide, produced AT&T telephone records that show Bidwell’s cell phone was always within reach of cell phone towers in the Poconos on June 2, 2011, meaning Bidwell could not have been in Philadelphia as he allegedly told others.
Though Bidwell allegedly told Smith he was out of the area at the time of the death, Bidwell later told Veronica Murray, owner of the Cinder Inn, that he had seen Wagner’s body hanging inside a trailer at the scrapyard either through a door or window, Murray testified before the jury was sent home for the weekend.
On the day she died, Wagner and Bidwell had spent several hours at the Cinder Inn. Bidwell claimed Wagner became upset after talking to her biological father on Bidwell’s cell phone while at the bar.
Murray said Bidwell later referred to that call in their conversation, telling Murray that Wagner became despondent over the phone call from her father, who Bidwell said had abused her.
The defense has portrayed Wagner as a troubled woman with a history of drug abuse who in the months before her death had talked about wanting to put bleach in her veins.
Wagner tested positive for methamphetamine after her death, which was initially listed as a suicide but later reopened years later as a homicide investigation after law enforcement received a tip from a man who claimed Bidwell said he murdered his girlfriend and made it look like a suicide.
In earlier testimony the prosecution has presented witnesses who said Bidwell wanted to dump Wagner and return to his estranged wife, who was pregnant.
Testimony resumes Monday morning.