NORRISTOWN - Accused killer James Joseph Smull whimpered, wrung his hands and paced as he stood at the casket of his slain ex-fiancee, Nickole Lyn Rossman, a secretly-recorded videotape revealed when it was played for a jury Friday.
"Oh Nick. Nicky. I love you so much Nickole. Oh God. Oh Nickole," Smull uttered as he approached Rossman's casket at a Phoenixville funeral home on Oct. 19, 2001.
"Oh, I love you so much. Oh no, no, no, no, no. Nicky, Nicky, Nicky."
The seven women and five men on the Montgomery County jury appeared riveted as the contents of the videotape were revealed for the first time by prosecutors, dramatically closing out the fifth day of testimony at Smull's first-degree murder trial.
Smull, 34, formerly of the 300 block of South Fifth Avenue, Royersford, knelt at the casket at one point and then rose and walked away toward the rear of the funeral parlor, the tape revealed. Smull could be seen pacing and wringing his hands saying, "Oh man, Oh man, Oh man."
Smull then returned to the casket and could be heard saying, "It didn't have to be this way, Nicky. We could have got it. We could have got you help, buddy."
As Smull prepared to leave the funeral parlor after viewing Rossman's body, he leaned over and kissed Rossman while saying, "Oh baby. I love you Nickole. Oh." Smull then could be seen walking out of range of the hidden camera.
While Smull uttered whimpers and sobs over and over again during his funeral parlor visit, there were no noticeable tears on his face, according to the videotape played in court.
As jurors watched the videotape and evaluated Smull's on-screen reactions, Smull simply hung his head and looked away from the projection screen, refusing to watch the videotape.
Prosecutors Frank Genovese and Gregory DiPippo, who throughout the trial have portrayed Smull as a calculating killer, did not reveal what they believe is incriminating about the videotape. They are expected to reveal their opinions when they wrap up their case during closing arguments next week.
Defense lawyer Frank DeSimone, while questioning state police Trooper Michael J. Rebar, implied there is nothing incriminating on the videotape. DeSimone implied investigators had expected Smull to confess and failed to get such a reaction.
Smull is charged with first- and third-degree murder and a weapons offense in connection with Rossman's Oct. 12, 2001, slaying. Prosecutors alleged Smull struck Rossman with a baseball bat, strangled her with an electrical cord and then slashed her throat from ear to ear with a kitchen knife during a jealous rage inside Rossman's 814 Dewees Place home in Trappe.
Testimony has revealed that by Oct. 14 investigators thought Smull was a possible suspect in the slaying. Rebar testified investigators sought the permission of Rossman's mother, Barbara, before they allowed Smull to attend the viewing or installed the recording equipment at the funeral home.
Rebar said Barbara Rossman initially frowned upon the idea but eventually gave her permission. Investigators also had to get permission from a state Superior Court judge for the undercover audio and video recordings, a requirement by state law.
"The video camera was above the casket in the flowers. The microphone, the audio, was in the casket itself," Rebar testified Friday, explaining how the recording equipment was concealed from Smull.
According to testimony, investigators told Smull he had 15 minutes to be alone with Rossman's body. Smull stayed only three minutes, according to the videotape.
Prosecutors alleged Smull killed Rossman, a 1992 Phoenixville Area High School graduate, after becoming enraged when she ended their relationship on Oct. 4, 2001, and he saw her on Oct. 12 with another man.
Authorities alleged Smull, also known as "Jimmy Joe," went to Rossman's home uninvited about 6:40 a.m. Oct. 12 and found her in the company of her friend, Jose Castillo, of Norristown. After arguing briefly with Rossman, Smull left and went to work, testimony revealed.
Investigators alleged Smull, who then worked at SEI Investments in Oaks, returned to Rossman's home between 11:10 and 11:45 a.m., found her alone and killed her. Testimony has revealed Rossman's neighbors reported seeing Smull or his Jeep outside Rossman's home during that time period.
During the trial, DeSimone has argued investigators "rushed to judgment" against Smull and arrested the wrong person. DeSimone has implied Smull loved Rossman and would not have harmed her.
According to testimony, in the hours before the murder was discovered, Smull told Rossman's friends and relatives that Rossman was using cocaine, keeping company with a drug dealer and that he feared something was going to happen to her.
DeSimone has implied that Castillo was a drug dealer who gave Rossman cocaine the morning of the murder and also implied that Castillo may have killed Rossman.
When Castillo testified earlier this week, he adamantly denied killing Rossman, giving her cocaine or being a drug dealer.
Prosecutors have said Castillo had nothing to do with Rossman's death. They said all evidence points to Smull as the killer.
Castillo, 49, of Norristown, testified he was at Rossman's home on the morning of Oct. 12 and that when he left Rossman's home at 8:40 a.m. Rossman was still alive. Castillo claimed he witnessed Rossman and Smull argue about money and infidelity earlier that morning when Smull showed up uninvited at Rossman's home.