Editor’s Note: This story contains obscenity and racial slurs critical to the understanding of the story that many will likely find offensive.
Prison can be wildly adverse environment without someone to talk to or rely on.
But for James LeBlanc-Tweedy, it became a liability long after he was released. When the prisoner in the cell next to him passed him a note allegedly claiming to have killed Robert Meireis, 36, and Elizabeth Tonsmeire, 34, in a drug and racially motivated killing, he felt grudgingly compelled to say something to authorities, he testified Thursday in Juneau Superior Court.
“I am only here because I know this is something that happened, because this got dumped on my shoulders, and there are two people who deserve justice,” LeBlanc-Tweedy said.
Speaking as a witness in the trial of Laron Carlton Graham, 42, for the 2015 double murder, LeBlanc-Tweedy was incarcerated in Lemon Creek Correctional Center with Graham in 2016. With their cells next to each other, Graham and LeBlanc-Tweedy struck up a friendship, he said.
“There’s nothing stopping us from talking to each other,” LeBlanc-Tweedy said. “When you’re back there for extended periods of time, it helps to talk to others.”
LeBlanc-Tweedy’s mother, Reagan Tweedy, was a probation officer at the time at LCCC. As such, it was considered a security risk to leave him in general population, so he was relegated to maximum security.
“He’s a really big guy, and I’m a small guy, and it’s important to have someone huge on your side,” said LeBlanc-Tweedy on direct examination.
The pair began communicating, both speaking and writing notes. LeBlanc-Tweedy said that Graham exhibited some paranoid behaviors, instructing LeBlanc-Tweedy to only read his notes with his back to the camera, not speaking out loud from fear of omnipresent surveillance, and tearing up his notes when he was done.
“I don’t remember the day,” LeBlanc-Tweedy said. “I received a note I never ever once suspected of getting.”
LeBlanc-Tweedy said Graham asked him if he wanted to hear something. They’d had good conversations via their notes before, so LeBlanc-Tweedy said he would.
“He sent me a note just bragging about the murders he committed with Robby Meireis and Elizabeth,” LeBlanc-Tweedy said on direct. LeBlanc-Tweedy said that, according to the note, Meireis had sold Graham what was supposed to have been very pure heroin called China White that did not perform as advertised. LeBlanc-Tweedy said he didn’t even know what China White was until he asked another inmate. Seeking reimbursement or more heroin, Graham returned to Tonsmeire’s apartment to seek restitution.
“Robby told him, ‘No, f—- you, (N-word),’” LeBlanc-Tweedy testified. “He said that he then shot Robby for selling him fake drugs, and then shot Elizabeth for being a witness.”
Meireis’ white supremacist leanings are well documented, along with a number of unpopular character traits alluded to by other witnesses, including his tendency towards brusque and rude behavior.
“Robby Meireis was a skinhead,” said John Darnall, the prosecuting attorney, during his direct examination. “The swastika, the woodpecker, the skinhead, those are all white supremacist affiliated tattoos.”
After giving the note back to Graham in the other cell, LeBlanc-Tweedy made immediate efforts to communicate with any prison officials by yelling into the microphone in his cell, he said. When no one was forthcoming, he talked to his uncle, also incarcerated in the maximum security section of LCCC. He also contacted his attorney, who advised him to bring this information to the police. He even contacted his mother, who helped arrange an interview with the detectives running the case.
“Why did you report it to the police?” Darnall asked LeBlanc-Tweedy in court.
“It was the right thing to do,” LeBlanc-Tweedy replied.
LeBlanc-Tweedy stood for direct examination for slightly more than an hour before moving to cross examination, which lasted less than an hour before court was adjourned for the day.
LeBlanc-Tweedy grew confrontational with defense attorney Natasha Norris during the cross examination, claiming that she was trying to twist his words and belittle him, and expressing his very clear desire not to be there in court. Court adjourned before LeBlanc-Tweedy was finished with the cross examination, and he will be required to reappear when court resumes next week on Monday morning.
Henry Niehaus, operations supervisor with Capital Transit, also testified Thursday. Each Capital Transit bus has at least seven cameras, Niehaus said, with newer busses having money. An individual matching Graham’s description is recorded by the cameras getting on a bus at the Cedar Park stop off Douglas Highway at 1:35 p.m. on Nov. 14, 2015. The individual gets off at the Downtown Transit Center.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or email@example.com.