ITHACA, N.Y. — The garbled audio of a 911 call played in a Tompkins County courtroom Monday as the first piece of evidence in the trial of a man accused of murdering Newfield man Camden Rundell in December.
Rundell’s girlfriend at the time, Leah Armstrong, shouted to a 911 dispatcher, “Somebody robbed him, and he’s now in the grass. I don’t know if he’s alive … I tried to give him CPR.”
She told the dispatcher she couldn’t feel a pulse.
“He is not breathing. He’s been in the same position,” she said. “His chest is not moving.”
The dispatcher tells Armstrong to do two chest compression on Rundell every second and to count them aloud, which she does.
In the otherwise silent courtroom, Armstrong’s voice rings out as she sobs while repeatedly counting, “One, two, one, two, one two,” at least a dozen times.
An officer eventually arrives at the scene and the audio stops.
Roy Clements Jr. is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery, and fourth-degree conspiracy. He’s accused of killing Rundell during a botched drug robbery last year. Five people were involved in the crime and Clements is the first to go to trial. The prosecution says Clements is the person who directly caused the death of Rundell, who was held down in the lawn, about 100 feet from his door.
When Armstrong took the stand Tuesday, she detailed what happened beginning about 10 hours before Rundell’s death.
Armstrong said she and Rundell went to dinner at Gola Osteria and ate at the bar. Then they went to The Haunt, a live music venue, to see a cover band. While there, they drank and did a few bumps of cocaine, less than half a gram, she said. They afterward went to Lot 10 Bar and Lounge and eventually smoked some marijuana.
Around 1:30 a.m. or so, Armstrong and Rundell caught a cab to go home, stopping at a gas station along the way. It was at the gas station where the prosecution says the people who were “hunting” for Rundell coincidentally saw them.
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Armstrong and Rundell got back to their home and a short time later, Rundell’s ex-girlfriend Jamie Gerhart and Colleen McColgin, the latter she did not know at the time, showed up.
“I was pissed about it,” she testified, and asked Rundell, “Why are two women coming to your house at this time of night?”
Armstrong, mad at her boyfriend, called a cab to take her home and went to another room while listening to Rundell talk to the women for 30 minutes to an hour in the kitchen and then on the porch.
“They were just like talking, and then they started arguing, but that was, like, on his porch,” Armstrong said.
At some point, Rundell came back into the house yelling. He said McColgin had taken his two rottweilers away in a vehicle.
“I was, like, they probably ran up the street,” Armstrong said.
But she said that the next thing she knew, she said she heard Gerhart’s voice again and people wearing ski masks walked into the house. She said the people were looking around the house and yelling.
“I just walked out there (to the yard), I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
Armstrong said that when she went outside, the first thing she saw Rundell being restrained.
“Cam on the ground and a big dude laying on top of him,” she said.
She testified that she walked toward the men and got about five feet away from them when Clements yelled at her.
“I was really afraid…(so I) went to the laundry room,” she said.
Armstrong said she eventually saw people come up from the basement carrying marijuana plants and then they left.
Then she went outside to check on Rundell.
She said she smacked his face to try to get a response from him, pressed her head to his chest, threw water on his face. But she wasn’t sure if she should call the police.
“I’m at a house that grows weed. I don’t want to get in trouble for that,” she said.
So Armstrong called a mutual friend first instead. After making eight phone calls and sending about eight texts, she called 911.
Defense attorney Lance Salisbury, however, disputed that the robbery happened and says Armstrong could not be relied upon to identify Clements on top of Rundell.
For instance, he points out that Armstrong had no way of knowing whether the people who took the marijuana plants didn’t already have a deal with Rundell to take the plants.
He also asked her about her drug use and how much she’d drank that night.
She admitted to doing cocaine and smoking weed with Rundell.
“I was f—– up, but not so f—– up I didn’t know what I was doing or couldn’t walk around,” Armstrong said.
The trial continued Tuesday afternoon with several witnesses including the cab driver who took Clements, Gerhart and McColgin home and a police officer who responded to the scene.
Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday.
Featured Photo: Police investigate the scene of a homicide on Dec. 2 Photo by Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice