OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – Testimony continues in the Capital Murder trial of Derrill Rick Ennis, with jurors seeing several pieces of evidence, including kitchen rugs allegedly taken from the victim’s mobile home in Auburn and pictures of scratches on the defendant’s hands and arms a few days after prosecutors, say he murdered 24-year-old Lori Ann Slesinski in June of 2006. Prosecutors say Ennis was romantically obsessed with the Auburn graduate, but Lori Ann refused to be more than just his friend.
The case remained unsolved for more than a decade when it was picked up by a cold case unit in 2017 who presented their 18-month investigation to a Lee County Grand Jury, who returned a Capital Murder indictment against Ennis in 2018 for murder during a kidnapping and burglary. After several delays due to COVID-19, the case went to trial on March 28th, with four days of jury selection, then opening statements and testimony starting Friday. Lori Ann’s mother was among the first to take the stand to tearfully testify she has not heard from her daughter since she vanished 16-years ago. Prosecutors say while Slesinski’s body has never been recovered, this is a murder case, not a missing person case.
Monday, the prosecution continued their case by calling several friends of Slesinski to the stand to testify they had not seen or heard from her since June of 2006, when she vanished from her mobile home off Webster Road in Auburn. Friends testified they had made plans with Lori Ann that she never showed up for, unlike her.
Lindsay Braun was one of the last people ever to speak Slesinski. The friend and co-worker of Lori Ann testified on Saturday, June 10th, around 6:30 PM, she talked to Lori Ann on the phone about their drink plans for the night. Braun testified she heard “Rick” in the background when she was on the phone with Lori Anne, identifying “Rick” as the defendant, Derrill Ennis, in the case. Braun testified after they hung up, Lori Ann called her back about 30 minutes later; the phone rang once, then stopped. Braun testified she tried to call Lori Ann back, but she did not answer. Braun also testified she attempted to call Ennis, but he never answered. Braun says Lori Ann did not show up for drinks on Saturday, testifying she never heard from Lori Ann again. Braun and another coworker went to Lori Ann’s mobile home that Tuesday when she failed to show up for work two days in a row.
“I began to basically panic at this point. I knew something was terribly wrong,” said Braun.
The door was not locked, and when they went inside, they saw Lori Ann’s dog in his kennel without food or water. They saw scuff marks on the wall and kitchen rugs missing. Braun testified Lori Ann’s dog did not walk on the tile floor, so the rugs were down in the kitchen as a pathway for him. Lori Ann and her vehicle were not there.
Prosecutors took out three rugs admitted into evidence and showed them to the jurors. Braun identified two of three rugs shown to jurors as rugs she remembers being in Lori Ann’s kitchen. In opening statements, prosecutors told jurors the rugs were located in Ennis’ possession after Lori Ann vanished.
Under cross-examination by Ennis’ defense team, Braun confirmed she and Lori Ann did smoke marijuana together. On one occasion, Braun had traveled to a location in Auburn where they purchased marijuana from a dealer.
An Auburn Fire Department Lieutenant testified Lori Ann’s vehicle was found on fire early on the morning of June 14th near the bowling alley. Prosecutors have said Ennis worked at the bowling alley just off Dekalb street where Slesinsk’s Blue Mazda Tribute was located a few days after the vanished. Investigators testified the fire was intentionally set, and gasoline was detected based on evidence collected from the vehicle.
After lunch, former Police Chief Paul Register took the stand to testify about seeing Derrill Rick Ennis the first week Lori Ann went missing. Register testified Ennis was wearing a long sleeve shirt in June, and when investigators looked at his arms and hands, they saw numerous scratch marks. Investigators took pictures of the wounds, and the images were shown to jurors. Register also testified a gas can was found in the woods near the burning vehicle; a picture of that gas can was shown to jurors. In opening statements, prosecutors told jurors an employee at the bowling alley where Ennis worked told investigators a small gas can was found to be missing from the bowling ally.
Meanwhile, the defense is expected to begin its case sometime this week. We do not know if Ennis will testify in his own defense. He is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole or death by lethal injection if convicted.