Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Defendant Takes Stand In Own Murder Trial in Keokuk, Closing Arguments Scheduled for Friday AM

John Lovretta/The Hawkeye
Jorge Sanders-Galvez took the stand in his own defense Thursday. Judge Mary Ann Brown is presiding over his first degree murder trial.

The defense rested its case Thursday afternoon in the 1st Degree Murder trial of Jorge Sanders-Galvez, 23, minutes after Sanders-Galvez took the stand. He’s one of two men accused of killing Kedarie Johnson, 16, of Burlington on March 2, 2016.

Sanders-Galvez testified for about an hour in the second floor courtroom of the south Lee County Courthouse in downtown Keokuk. The trial was moved there a few days before the trial began on Tues. Oct. 24.


Defense Attorney Curtis Dial walked his client through a series of questions, allowing him to paint the picture of his recollection of the night in question.

Sanders-Galvez said he and Jaron Purham, 25, left the HyVee on Angular Street together. The grocery’s store’s surveillance system showed them leaving the store’s parking lot around 10:00 pm on March 2, 2016.

Sanders-Galvez said they stopped at a home for a few minutes before traveling to the home at 2610 Madison Avenue. This is the home that the prosecution has said Johnson was taken to prior to being shot in an alley several miles away.

Credit John Lovretta/The Hawkeye
Sanders-Galvez holding the alleged murder weapon in court.

Sanders-Galvez said he and Purham were the only two people at 2610 Madison at that time of night. He said he started to look for marijuana to take back to the home of another acquaintance, DeAngelo Haley, when Purham left in the vehicle they drove to the home.

“He left after I got my weed and started to bag it up,” said Sanders-Galvez. “He just said, ‘I’ll be right back.’”

Sanders-Galvez said he waited for Purham, alone in the home, for about 30 minutes. He said he then left on foot and started walking north on Madison Avenue. He said after 30 minutes of walking, he saw a red car that appeared to be the car Purham was driving.

Sanders-Galvez said as he approached, Purham “pointed the gun at me and told me to get the fuck in the street.” He later said that was them “playing around.”

Sanders-Galvez said Purham told him to hold onto his gun while in the car. The prosecution has said that gun is the gun that was used to kill Johnson and that Sanders-Galvez owned it. Sanders-Galvez testified that he did not own the gun, instead, Purham gave him money to purchase it through Facebook “cause I can get guns.”

Sanders-Galvez said he and Purham eventually reached Haley’s home. He said he eventually left to stay the night at the home of a female acquaintance.

“I don’t even know Kedarie Johnson,” said Sanders-Galvez. “I did not shoot anyone. I don’t know Kedarie Johnson.”


Sanders-Galvez’s afternoon testimony was the second time he sat in the witness chair on Thursday. He also took the stand during a hearing, without the jury present, about three hours earlier on whether statements he previously made to police were “made voluntarily.”

Credit John Lovretta/The Hawkeye
Sanders-Galvez returns to his seat after testifying.

Sanders-Galvez was arrested April 12, 2016 in Kirkwood, Missouri. A detective involved in the arrest testified that he tackled Sanders-Galvez into a garage during the arrest because Sanders-Galvez appeared to be reaching for a gun.

While in police custody in Missouri, Sanders-Galvez was interviewed by Burlington Detective Eric Short and Iowa DCI Special Agent Matt George. The interview was recorded for audio and video.

The prosecution argued that the statements to law enforcement were made voluntarily and thus should be allowed to be used against Sanders-Galvez if he testified on his own behalf. The defense claimed that Sanders-Galvez was disoriented because of the violent nature of his arrest.

Sanders-Galvez said he blacked out a couple of times because of it and did not remember some of his interview with law enforcement.

Judge Mary Ann Brown reviewed the video before lunch Thursday morning and ruled that while she thought Sanders-Galvez was injured, he appeared to be fully aware of what was going on, allowing the prosecution to use the testimony against him if he testified.


At the start, federal prosecutor Christopher Perras asked Sanders-Galvez if he ever met Johnson or knew Johnson. He said no. The prosecution produced evidence earlier in the trial that Sanders-Galvez was a Facebook friend of the female Facebook account maintained by Johnson.

Perras then asked Sanders-Galvez about his trip to HyVee on March 2, 2016. Surveillance footage showed Johnson walking across the parking lot, dressed as a girl at the time, at the same time that Sanders-Galvez and Purham were driving away.

“I don’t remember seeing anyone,” said Sanders-Galvez. Perras said surveillance video showed Johnson walking in front of the vehicle at one point.

Perras also asked about Sanders-Galvez’s interview with Short and George on April 12, 2016.

Perras said Sanders-Galvez told the investigators that he and Purham went from HyVee to 2610 Madison where they met up with two other people, cooked pork tenderloins and green beans and remained there the rest of the night.

Sanders-Galvez said he mixed up his nights when talking to the officers. He said he’d had more time to collect his thoughts about the night since then.

Credit John Lovretta/The Hawkeye
Katrina Johnson, Kedarie Johnson's mother, listens as Sanders-Galvez testifies.

“I misconstrued my nights, I guess,” said Sanders-Galvez.

Sanders-Galvez was also asked if Purham killed Johnson on his own.

“I am not saying he did it,” said Sanders-Galvez.

Perras spent much of his time focusing on the timeline that Sanders-Galvez provided.

Perras said the evidence showed Johnson was taken to 2610 Madison Avenue. Fibers from a sheet in the bedroom there were found on his body and some of his personal items were found in the upstairs bedroom: school ID, computer, backpack, shoes.

Sanders-Galvez testified that he was alone at 2610 Madison Avenue for about 40 minutes that night.

Perras said that fits in the timeline for when Johnson was in the home, so he asked Sanders-Galvez if someone was upstairs abducting and suffocating Johnson upstairs while he was there.

Sanders-Galvez said he did not hear anyone upstairs, adding “I believe there would have been indications” if that was happening.

Perras also asked Sanders-Galvez

  • Why he was looking up information online about the death of Johnson : “People suggested I committed the crime… People were blaming me and I was hoping someone got arrested.”
  • Why he left Burlington so abruptly after the murder : “We have a record label. My cousin said we needed to be back in Saint Louis to set up a show.”
  • Was the gun in evidence the same gun you purchased : “Similar to the gun I bought.”
  • If he came up with a new story after seeing all the evidence in the case : “No”
  • Did he tell the truth to the officers on April 12, 2016 : “No”


Judge Brown released the jury at about 3:00 Thursday afternoon.

She told them that starting at 9:00 Friday morning, she would review the jury instructions before both sides would present their closing arguments in the case.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.