LAS VEGAS (AP) - The last question was the most direct for a homeless ex-convict who’d already told a jury his Las Vegas firefighter friend promised him $5,000 and took him to stores to buy supplies including the claw hammer with which he killed the firefighter’s estranged wife.
“Who told you to kill Shauna?” prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo asked Noel Scott Stevens on Thursday.
“George did,” Stevens responded.
Then, at DiGiacomo’s request, the shackled Stevens looked over from the witness stand and identified George Miguel Tiaffay sitting in a tight gray suit coat and tie at the defendant’s table.
Stevens was the star witness for the prosecution during the third day of testimony in Tiaffay’s trial on murder, conspiracy and other in Clark County District Court.
Homicide detectives were scheduled to testify Friday about evidence they collected investigating the Sept. 29, 2012, murder of Shauna Tiaffay, a 46-year-old mother of an 8-year-old daughter who was going through divorce proceedings while working as a cocktail server at a Las Vegas resort.
Stevens, 40, who had four prior felony convictions in California and Nevada, pleaded guilty in January 2013 to nine criminal charges including first-degree murder in Shauna Tiaffay’s slaying.
George Tiaffay pleaded not guilty. Now 43, the 1994 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and 10-year Las Vegas firefighter could face life in prison if he’s convicted.
Tiaffay’s defense lawyer, Robert Langford, hasn’t said if Tiaffay will testify.
Stevens on Wednesday provided a chillingly matter-of-fact account of plotting with George Tiaffay several different ways to kill Shauna Tiaffay before hiding in her apartment and attacking her with a hammer when she returned home from her night shift at the Palms Casino Hotel.
“I hit her in the head,” he said. “She tells me why am I doing this? I don’t say anything. I hit her in the head and she hits the floor.”
The hammer handle broke, but Stevens said he used the metal head to keep hitting her.
“I hit her until she don’t move no more,” he said.
Stevens testified that Tiaffay promised him $100 a week until Tiaffay got insurance money to pay the rest of the promised $5,000.
On Thursday, Tiaffay’s defense attorney, Robert Langford, asked Stevens to describe the a plea deal in which police and prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty if he pleaded guilty, showed where he buried the hammer in the desert and agreed to testify against Tiaffay.
“You’re here today to testify against George Tiaffay as long as they don’t seek the death penalty against you?” Langford asked.
“Yes,” Stevens said. He said earlier he knows he faces at least 21 years at sentencing after Tiaffay’s trial, but expects to spend the rest of his life in prison.
The self-described homeless handyman sat rocking slowly in his seat, giving one-word and one-sentence answers through a speech impediment.
Langford asked him about hallucinations he admitted having unless he drank enough to make them go away, and voices he said he sometimes hears.
Sometimes he sees Shauna Tiaffay’s face, Stevens said.
Stevens said he liked 101-proof Wild Turkey, and used to consume at least a 1.75-liter bottle a day every day. But he said he’d drink cheap vodka or cold medicine if he had to.
He smoked marijuana when he had it, and took what he called speed.
He denied the voices ever tell him to hurt people.
Stevens was asked about living in jail isolation, where he’s entitled to one hour a day outside his cell, and about medications he’s given to treat sleep, depression and schizophrenia.
He said he didn’t know the names of the medicines he was given. But he said one anti-depressant made him sleepy.
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