Defense attorneys will get their chance today to hammer away at the credibility of the state's star witness in the killing of Kate Waring last year.
Kate Waring's father testifies he was suspicious of $550 check, published 10/05/10Star witness to take the stand today in Waring trial, published 10/06/10
Heather Angelica Kamp spent four hours on the witness stand Wednesday testifying against her husband and co-defendant, Ethan Mack, who is charged with Waring's June 2009 murder.
Kamp accused Mack of torturing and killing the 28-year-old woman at their James Island home, then trying to drain Waring's bank account.
But Kamp, an admitted con artist, also acknowledged lying to investigators on several occasions. One of those lies cost her a chance at a reduced sentence on lesser charges, she told a Charleston jury.
Prosecutors had agreed to accept a manslaughter plea from Kamp and push for no more than 45 years in prison if she continued to truthfully cooperate with investigators.
But after her plea in August, Kamp acknowledged, she sent detectives on a wild goose chase tracking a bogus lead about a Mexican drug kingpin supposedly connected to Waring's death.
When authorities discovered the lie, Kamp's plea deal went out the window. She is now testifying with no protections, with a murder charge hanging over her head.
Kamp insisted that she is telling the truth now, and had lied only to protect Mack from a murder rap. "I didn't want him to go to jail for the rest of his life," she said. "I felt guilty for putting us here because I gave up the body."
Kamp led private investigators to Waring's remains in October 2009 and provided a firsthand account of the dead woman's final moments. In doing so, she became a pivotal witness in the state's case.
Kamp, 31, also revealed Wednesday that she and Mack continued to communicate for months in the Charleston County jail after their arrests, in violation of detention center rules. Through a series of illicit notes, Mack tried to persuade her not to cooperate with police or testify against him, she said.
Though housed in different wings, they exchanged letters by sending mail to proxies in their cell blocks to get around rules preventing co-defendants from communicating, Kamp said. They also used strips of cloth to pass notes between floors in their recreation areas, a banned practice that detention officers turned a blind eye to, she said.
Mack watched impassively through most of the proceedings as Kamp, the sole witness of the day, testified.
When she entered the courtroom, her hair in stringy cornrows and dressed in a blue shirt with sequins, he simply stared down at the table in front of him.
Kamp seemed to choke up when she started to describe Waring's killing, but she shed tears only when talking about her fractured relationship with Mack. They wed just before their arrest last year, after she had tricked him into believing she was pregnant.
Kamp told the jury she had spent years scamming people, pretending to be a doctor and running up expenses on their credit cards. She moved to Charleston in May 2009 after a chance meeting with Waring on a train.
Waring introduced her to Mack, and Kamp fell in love. She decided to make a clean break with her grifter past, she said.
Waring, however, found out about Kamp's lies and spread word that she was a fraud, Kamp said. That made Kamp angry, particularly after it soured her relations with Mack's family.
Mack too was growing tired of Waring because she was too demanding of his time, Kamp testified.
Kamp said she decided to get back at Waring by stealing her checks and a credit card to get cash. Waring got wise to their scheme after Kamp tried to use Waring's credit card to book a hotel room in Florida in early June 2009, Kamp said.
Waring's father also discovered a forged $550 check from her account that Mack had cashed.
Kamp testified that she and Mack planned to teach Waring a lesson and scare her on June 12, 2009. They were afraid her family was going tell police about the stolen checks and credit card fraud.
They also were angry that Waring had lost $5,000 they gave her to line up a cocaine deal, a scheme they had hoped would give them a solid footing in the drug trade, she said.
After the pair invited Waring to their Riley Road home to party, Kamp offered Waring $20 to try to get in a suitcase as a game. When Waring got all but one leg in the suitcase, Mack pulled out a Taser gun and began shocking Waring over and over, Kamp testified.
As Kamp held the suitcase, Mack tried to smother Waring with a pillow, then struck her in the head with a wine bottle she had been drinking from, Kamp said. "He went bam, bam twice on her head and the bottle broke," she said, demonstrating the blows with her hand.
Kamp said Mack ordered her to fill the bathtub. He then dropped Waring's body in the tub, face-up, but below the water, Kamp said.
"Was she still alive when she went in the water?" 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson asked.
"Yes, she was still alive," Kamp said.
"How do you know she was still alive?" Wilson asked.
"Because she was breathing bubbles," Kamp said.
As Waring lay in the tub, the couple rifled through her handbag, stealing her checks, a bulldog keychain and a pair of sunglasses, Kamp said. Mack also used Waring's phone to send phony text messages to himself and a former boyfriend, supposedly from Waring, Kamp said.
Mack then smashed the phone and stripped Waring, who had since died in the tub, of her clothes and jewelry, Kamp said. Kamp also pulled a ring she fancied off the dead woman's hand. The couple then went to buy cleaning supplies to scour their place, she said.
They wrapped Waring in blankets and a trash bag and left her in the kitchen while they cleaned, Kamp said. Once done, Mack smoked a marijuana blunt and went to sleep for a couple of hours.
Then they drove to Wadmalaw Island and dumped Waring's body in woods near a construction site where Mack once worked, Kamp said.
Kamp testified that two days after she and Mack dumped Waring's body, Mack tried to cash a forged $4,500 check from Waring's bank account, but he was unable to get his hands on the cash. Kamp said she forged Waring's name on the check.
Kamp said she and Mack concocted a story to cover their tracks, lied to police and even paid off a neighbor who they thought had seen them on the night of the killing. Kamp said she gave Waring's iPod to the neighbor, Terry Williams, so that he would "keep his mouth shut."
Private investigators came to see Williams and offered him a bag of cash to share his story, Kamp said. Mack seemed confident that they could continue outfoxing authorities, Kamp said, but she was unsure and grew increasingly worried about all the attention.
Kamp said she and Mack married on Oct. 6 at his aunt's home. The following day, police arrested them on forgery and obstruction of justice charges, she said.
Kamp said she later agreed to show a team of private investigators hired by Waring's family where the body was. She said she hoped it would help with her criminal charges and finally return her former friend to her family.
"I thought she deserved better than what she got," Kamp said. "I didn't think she deserved to be out there like that."