A second prosecution witness testified Tuesday at the murder trial of James Bidwell that he confessed to killing his girlfriend Kristin Wagner in 2011 at a junkyard in Stroud Township, a death investigators initially listed as a suicide but later changed to a homicide after receiving a tip from an Allentown man who claimed Bidwell said he choked Wagner to death and staged the scene to look like a suicide.
Besides buttressing the prosecution’s theory Wagner’s death was a homicide, the testimony from Elisa Bennett of Tamaqua provided yet another glimpse into the apparent widespread use of methamphetamine among Bidwell’s employees.
Bennett, who said she employed for a month or two by Bidwell “doing eBay stuff for him,” testified Bidwell gave her meth “all the time” when she worked for him. “It was always drugs,” she said. “I did meth every day.”
It was after a night of drinking and doing meth with Bidwell that Bidwell allegedly told Bennett what happened June 2, 2011 to Wagner, who was found hanging from a cord in a trailer on Bidwell’s property. When he woke up the next morning in bed with Bennett, Bidwell said, “he killed her,” Bennett testified.
“What was your reaction to that?” asked Michael Mancuso, the first assistant district. “Nothing,” she said. “I was scared of him.”
The night before, she admitted, Bidwell had told her a different story, saying Wagner had hanged herself.
The jury also heard testimony from Donald Wagner Jr., a man they have heard about throughout the trial, which started last week. Wagner, the father of Kristin Wagner, said he invested $200,000 in Bidwell’s garbage truck business with the understanding he would receive a $100,000 return on his investment in a year. The $200,000 was the money Wagner said he received after his house burned down at Arrow Head Lakes.
“He had a good idea,” said Wagner, a truck driver, who said he later came to see Bidwell’s pitch as “like a used car salesman.” He denied suggestions by the defense that his cell phone conversation with his daughter earlier in the day she died may have left her so depressed that she killed herself.
“She was one of the happiest girls, a beautiful girl inside and out,” Wagner said.
Wagner admitted his daughter did have pending legal problems in Monroe County involving allegations Kristin Wagner had kidnapped her sister.
But Wagner said he assured his daughter they would go to the courthouse the next day and straighten out the matter.
Defense attorney Brian McMonagle pointed out his daughter was facing up to 25 years on that charge. McMonagle also questioned Wagner on statements Kristin Wagner made to police who were investigating meth trafficking in the Poconos.
Kristin Wagner, who was a confidential informant, told police her father was involved in the drug business.
“I don’t know why she would say that,” Wagner told McMonagle.
Testimony resumes Wednesday morning.