Local News

Feb 3, 2012 1:51 AM by Ariel Wesler

Day 4: Widower takes stand in Downs Sanity Trial

A widower of one of the two sisters killed in Santa Margarita on Christmas Day 2010 took the stand during the fourth day of the sanity trial for Andrew Downs.

Downs had plead guilty by reason of insanity to shooting and killing Kathy Yeager, 61, and her sister Beverly Reilly, 64. The trial will determine whether Downs was sane at the time of the murders.

It's tough to imagine, but Dennis Reilly did his best to paint a picture. He gave incredibly vivid and chilling testimony as he described the sights and sounds all around him on that fateful Christmas Day.

"When the rifle went off in the hallway, I can't describe how loud it was," Reilly said.

Speaking in a San Luis Obispo Courtroom, Reilly recalled his close encounter with his wife's killer.

"He was in such rage. His skin was dark."

Reilly arrived at the house just as his wife, Beverly, and her sister, Kathy were shot to death.

"Before I could move, Kathy's body fell to the floor and so I ran across the kitchen to see what had happened," Reilly said.

He saw Downs, 20, grasping a rifle.

"I saw he didn't know how to hold a rifle properly, and I said that I've got one chance to get out of here."

So, Reilly did just that. Using an aerial photo of the property, he described his escape route. He ran as fast as he could, trying to get away while Downs pursued him in a truck.

"I had to climb through the barb wired fence and I ran out about roughly 30, 40 yards," Reilly explained.

He used the thick brush in the area to hide from Downs.

"He was still banging around and crashing and I lay there for a few minutes in the cow trail, watching."

Reilly eventually flagged down some people driving by and they contacted police.

"I saw the pretty sirens and lights coming and I jumped out in the middle of the road, and I held up my hands," he said.

Now, Downs' mental state lies in the hands of the court.

More witnesses will take the stand Friday, including a psychiatrist. Testimony and closing arguments are expected to wrap up on Monday.

The two women killed were from out of town and house-sitting at a family member's ranch on Pozo Road.

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