Tracey Daise was looking for crack to feed her addiction when she heard about a dealer selling behind a store on U.S. 21.
Daise's children had been taken away from her a few months earlier by relatives because of her crack habit. But needing her fix, Daise went to meet the dealer -- and was stunned to find it was her 13-year-old son, Earnest.
"He asked me, 'If I give you crack, will you come home?' " she tearfully testified Monday.
That nearly 20-year-old anecdote was one of many shared on the first day of testimony in the sentencing phase of Earnest Daise's murder trial. A jury convicted him Thursday of the murders of Jeanine Mullen and her 4-year-old son, Waltfredo Davis-Mullen; assault and battery with intent to kill for the wounding of his son, 2-year-old Jeremiah Daise; trafficking crack cocaine; and possession with intent to distribute mariijuana. Now, the same jury will decide whether Daise gets life in prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.
Testimony will resume Tuesday. The prosecution rested Monday afternoon; a decision on Daise's sentence is expected Wednesday.
THE JURY'S DECISION
Monday's proceedings began with 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone telling the jury that Daise is a "cold-blooded murderer" with a long criminal history. Stone seeks the death penalty.
State law requires aggravating circumstances before the death penalty can be applied, and Stone said there are two of them in Daise's case: the murder of more than one person, and the murder of a child younger than 11.
"He killed the mother of his child and a 4-year-old who did absolutely nothing to deserve it," Stone said.
Defense attorney Micah Leddy described Daise's troubled past during his opening arguments. Daise's mother raised him on her own until a boyfriend got her addicted to crack, Leddy said.
With his mother absent most of the day, an 8-year-old Daise raised his sister, dressing and feeding her. Leddy showed jurors a picture of Daise's sister on Easter Sunday, telling them Daise had dressed the young girl.
"Those bows don't match that dress on accident," he said. "That's the care and love of an 8-year-old boy that did that."
Leddy asked the jury to consider everything about Daise and his past when deciding a sentence.
"The purpose of these proceedings is to show Earnest Daise is a real person, a real human, and that he is not beyond redemption," he said. "He will never leave jail. He will die in jail. I need just one of you to find a spark of humanity, a chance at redemption, and something human in him and choose life.
"You don't have to pile tragedy on top of tragedy."
Tracey Daise spoke for more than an hour Monday, fighting back tears to recount her family's troubled history and Earnest Daise's tough childhood. She told the jury about sexual and physical abuse she endured from her family and how, at 8 years old, she took care of her grandmother after she was shot by her grandfather.
Earnest Daise was born in 1982, when his mother was just 14. Tracey Daise said she had started a relationship with a Marine stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort a few months earlier. The Marine had told her he was 18, but when she got pregnant, she found out he was 24.
The Marine was eventually charged with statutory rape and was kicked out of the Marine Corps, but he never went to jail, she said. Daise had a second child, Marida, in 1985, on the day she was supposed to graduate from Battery Creek High School.
Daise and her children soon moved to the Parkview Apartments on Duke Street. Down the street lived a convicted felon named Bunny who got her hooked on crack in 1990.
The addiction quickly took over her life. She left the her children alone for hours -- sometimes days -- on end, she testified. At certain points, the apartment's electricity was shut off; at other times, there was no food.
Earnest Daise, 8 at the time his mother discovered crack, was his sister's primary caregiver for more than three years. He would get his sister ready for school and make her food he knew how to prepare, such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Leddy said.
Tracey Daise said she ate through $8,000 in savings, returned Christmas presents, and prostituted herself to satisfy her crack habit. After giving birth to her third child, Niica, in 1993, relatives finally stepped in and took her children away from her.
She said she stayed in Beaufort for about six months after her children were taken away, then went to Macon, Ga., soon after she found Earnest selling crack behind that store on U.S. 21.
Earnest Daise dabbed his eyes in the courtroom while his mother recounted their meeting.
Daise said she has been clean for 15 years, finishing her addiction treatment in 1998, a few months before her son received his first prison sentence.
Stone called several witnesses Monday to testify about Earnest Daise's criminal history, which started with a strong-arm robbery in 1997.
"Jail means nothing to Earnest Daise," he said. "He's been in and out of it his whole life."
Daise had convictions for an aggravated assault in 2001 and for the unlawful carrying of a pistol stemming from another assault investigation in 2001.
Current S.C. State Law Enforcement Division Lt. Shawn Harley was one of three Beaufort Police Department officers who arrested Daise in the 2001 pistol incident. Harley testified that he stopped a vehicle driven by Daise after responding to a shooting at a Waffle House in Beaufort.
During the stop, Daise dared the police to shoot him and had to be pepper-sprayed before officers could get him in handcuffs. Police found handguns under the front seats and a rifle in the back seat. He was charged with unlawful carrying of a pistol and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. However, he was not charged with assault, Stone said.
Daise also had several infractions and convictions while in jail. Between July and October of 2003, Daise was cited for being under the influence of or in possession of alcohol, possessing a knife, and stealing, Department of Corrections official Stephanie Willis testified.
While at Beaufort County Detention Center, Daise was charged with assault three times: in 2002, in 2011, and one Oct. 12, corrections officer Ernest Walker said.
Jurors were shown pictures of the crime scene in Dale and listened to audio from a frantic 911 call for the first time Monday.
Stone played the audio of Frank Mullen's 911 call, placed at 6:53 p.m. on Nov. 15, 2009, after he found his daughter and her two sons shot inside her Player Road home.
Several members of the Mullen family cried in the courtroom as the call played.
"My daughter's on the floor bleeding, and my grandson's on the floor bleeding," he said. "Please send help."
Tracy Franklin,Jeremiah Daise's great-aunt, testified Monday that she stayed with the 2-year-old at the hospital in the weeks following the shooting.
At the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, Franklin said she was met by police and a priest who could read him his last rites, but Jeremiah survived. He was unconscious for three days while doctors charted the path the bullet took through his body, she said.
Franklin stayed at Jeremiah's bedside nonstop for more than a week, missing the funeral for Jeanine and Waltfredo Mullen in Beaufort. When Jeremiah awoke from his coma, he began screaming, Franklin said, "like everything was coming back to him."
"I had bruises from trying to hold him down while he was screaming," she said.
Jeremiah's preschool teacher at Davis Elementary School, Julia Farmer, said he was prone to similar episodes during their nap times.
"He would wake up out of his sleep screaming," she said. "Sometimes we could calm him down, but other times he would be inconsolable, and we'd have to get his grandmother."
Jeremiah's grandmother, Roberta Mullen, worked as a school secretary in the same building where Jeremiah attended preschool; she cared for him after he was released from the hospital. Mullen said she took time off from work to take care of him, because no daycare would take him with the body brace MUSC doctors fitted him with. Jeremiah wore the brace from November 2009 to February 2010.
Megan Mullen, Jeanine Mullen's younger sister, now takes care of Jeremiah in Maryland.
"He called me Kiki, my sister's nickname," Mullen testified, fighting through tears. "Ever since he started talking he called me Kiki, but now he calls me Mommy."
Jeanine and Waltfredo Mullen were both shot and killed on Waltfredo's fourth birthday. Two days before their deaths, Jeanine Mullen arranged to throw a birthday party for her son in his preschool classroom at Davis, his teacher Yolanda Allen testified.
Jeanine Mullen brought cupcakes and party bags in for the children and a present for Waltfredo, Allen said.
"Waltfredo was so excited to celebrate with his friends," she said.
Allen said Waltfredo Mullen was always the first student in class, coming to school early with his grandmother. Mullen helped Allen set up supplies for each day and would talk to her about things he did the previous night or over the weekend, she said.
Allen said she grappled with how to tell her students about Mullen's death. She created a poster for him that was shown to the jury and included pictures of him in class and at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia.
Megan Mullen said she used to tease her sister about taking Waltfredo for herself.
"He was just a good baby," she said. "He could light up a room. He just had the best of Jeanine wrapped up in him." "You don't have to pile tragedy on top of tragedy."