Jurors hear the words of accused killer Robert Steven Hawkins

'My friend just died in front of me'
Sep. 28, 2013 @ 08:40 AM

When he first arrived at the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office the morning of Oct. 19, 2010, his hands cuffed behind him, Robert Steven Hawkins screamed, ranted and bellowed, denied that he had killed his friend, and said that a gang of crack dealers had done it.

In the first portion of a nearly three-and-a-half-hours-long recording of his questioning, played for jurors Friday in Hawkins' murder trial in Caldwell Superior Court, Hawkins screamed and swore at detectives, and at no one at all when he was left alone in the interview room. Often, he sobbed, and at one time he pounded the door as detectives tried to calm him down.

His demeanor changed markedly and his mood settled once the handcuffs were removed so investigators could take his clothing as evidence, and he remained calmer throughout the interview even after his hands were again cuffed but this time in front of him.

But still he sometimes sobbed while talking about Jason Clark, 38, whom Hawkins said he had known for 26 years, since Clark was 12 and the 16-year-old Hawkins was seeing Clark's sister. During his interview at the sheriff's office, Hawkins told Agent Charlie Morris of the State Bureau of Investigation that Clark was "a good friend" and "like a brother."

"I just can't believe this is happening," Hawkins said as he began to cry. "I loved him."

Hawkins, 45, is charged with first-degree murder. He stabbed Clark in the neck, severing a small artery, about 5 a.m. Oct. 19, 2010, after more than nine hours of drinking together. Hawkins maintains that he was defending himself after Clark threatened him with a shotgun. The trial is in recess for the weekend, and testimony resumes Monday.

During a latter part of his recorded interview at the sheriff's office, when asked why he had been in such a rage when he first was brought to the interview room, Hawkins explained that he had been sitting with his hands cuffed behind his back for nearly four hours, that he "had to piss like a race horse" and that he was upset by what had happened.

"My friend just died in front of me. It was traumatic," he said.

Though it is difficult to understand a great deal of what Hawkins said in the recording of his questioning, at several points he described events preceding the stabbing in a striking amount of detail. For instance, when telling Morris about Clark demonstrating what he called jiu jitsu, a kind of martial art, Hawkins said Clark repeatedly struck him across the face.

"He hit me 30 times. ... I counted them," Hawkins said, and he said he did not try to strike back.

When Hawkins described what he said was the first time during the night that Clark threatened him with a shotgun -- he went on to describe two more -- Morris asked, "Was it loaded?"

"Oh yeah," Hawkins said.

"How do you know?" Morris asked.

"He showed me," Hawkins said.

The second time Clark pulled the gun on him, Hawkins said he dropped to his knees and pleaded for Clark to stop aiming the gun at him.

And after the final time Clark aimed the gun at him and Hawkins stabbed him, Hawkins said that Clark initially fell immediately to the floor of his kitchen, but then stood again, walked into the living room, then back to the kitchen again, and fell a final time. Hawkins described the bloody trail Clark left behind him as he walked, his blood oozing from his neck.

"I will never be able to get that picture out of my head," Hawkins said.