Judge allows domestic abuse testimony in Jarrett murder trial

Testimony of spousal abuse will be allowed in the trial of an Elkridge man charged with killing his wife.

Howard County Circuit Court Judge Richard Bernhardt ruled Thursday that some testimony from relatives of Christine Jarrett accusing her husband, Robert Jarrett Jr., of abusing her on more than one occasion are admissible.

"It will be up to the jury to determine what weight to give the evidence," said Bernhardt, who also agreed to a defense motion to postponed the start of the trial from Oct. 1 to Dec. 3.

Jarrett, 58, was arrested on April 18 and charged with first- and second-degree murder after Howard County detectives found the remains of his ex-wife, who was reported missing Jan. 5, 1991, buried under concrete in a backyard shed of the house the couple once shared in the 6000 block of Claire Drive in Elkridge.

During Thursday's motions hearing, Bernhardt reiterated the unique nature of the case, which relies on circumstantial evidence.

"Given the unique circumstances of the case ... the prior acts of violence should be admissible," Bernhardt said.

Some of the testimony deemed admissible were accounts from Christine Jarrett's sister, nephew and niece that Jarrett beat her the summer before she disappeared.

Bernhardt also admitted testimony from the couple's son, Robert Jarrett III, who said he vaguely remembers seeing his father abuse his mother on two separate occasions.

Bernhardt did not rule on the inclusion of testimony from the retired Howard County detective who investigated the case, citing he needed more time to review his bench notes and the court recording.

Bernhardt did advise the prosecution that he was leaning toward excluding the testimony because the detective said he had no independent recollection of the events.

The detective testified during the course of the investigation that he interviewed the then 10-year-old son, who said his father hit his mother.

The younger Jarrett testified he had no memory of speaking with the detective.

Prosecutors stated in court on Thursday that the evidence admitted will be used during the trial to establish motive.

More motions hearings have been scheduled for Oct. 1-2, when the defense's motion to suppress any evidence obtained from the medical examiner's autopsy will be litigated.

Defense attorney George Psoras has argued that, since the remains were cremated, the defense was denied an opportunity to cross-reference the findings, which identified the body as Christine Jarrett and ruled the cause of death as homicide.

When Christine Jarrett was reported missing, the elder Jarrett told police that she had walked away from their house after an argument. She was 34 years old at the time.

On Jan 28, 1998, the Howard County Circuit Court declared Christine Jarrett dead and declared the date of her death to be June 10, 1993.

According to police, Jarrett had never allowed them to search his home or property. The police could never obtain a search warrant and the case went cold.

After an anonymous tip relating to the case, police learned that Jarrett was no longer living at the house in Elkridge.

Police had never spoken to Jarrett's new wife about Christine Jarrett's disappearance, and on April 17 they contacted her. The wife, who reportedly is separated from Jarrett, gave police permission to search the property and they returned the next day.

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