Arizona Republic

Greer trial finally begins

Prosecutors describe kids' deaths

By Victoria Harker
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 30, 1999

Before he was beaten to death and stuffed in a sewer pipe, little Henry Greerstood in a corner for 12 hours and urinated on himself, prosecutors told a Maricopa County Superior Court jury Monday.

While the 5-year-old stood in his "timeout," his pregnant mother, Loretta Greer, changed her clothes, ate, watched TV and went to bed, Deputy County Attorney Maria Armijo said.

When Greer awoke about 2 a.m., Henry was still standing in the corner, Armijo said during opening statements of the mother's long-awaited murder trial.

Greer and her retarded live-in boyfriend, Brent Linner, are accused of abusing and killing Henry and his little sister, 4-year-old Odessa.

The children's partly decomposed bodies were found beneath a manhole in an alley near 36th Avenue and Osborn Road in Phoenix. That was more than five years ago.

More than 30 postponements and hearings involving Greer's mental competence, changes in judges and defense attorneys and scheduling conflicts delayed the trial. Greer's disruptive antics also have slowed the case.

On Monday, Greer, 33, appeared calm, with a long braid down her back and one wrapped in a white band high on her head. She showed no emotion as prosecutors described her children's torture.

Cameras are banned from the high-profile case, and attorneys have been told not to speak to the news media.

Armijo told the jury that Greer is guilty of child abuse and either premeditated, first-degree murder or felony murder. Even if Linner was the actual killer, she said, Greer would be guilty of felony murder for helping to dispose of the bodies and for failing to notify medical and law-enforcement authorities.

The children's bodies were bound in Odessa's small clothes, a sweat shirt, a pair of pants and suspenders, Armijo said. Odessa's arms and legs were held together with plastic garbage-bag ties.

In the defense opening statement, Greer's attorney portrayed her as a mother who had a good relationship with her children. Her boyfriend, Linner, was the real problem, attorney Jeffrey Williams said. Linner was jealous of the children, and he often threatened Greer and refused to let her get medical help.

Their crime came to light after a fight when Greer hit Linner with a frying pan, Williams said. Linner called police and led them to the children's dank grave.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Greer, but not for Linner, because he is retarded. Linner's trial is scheduled to start next Monday.

After the couple's arrest in September 1994, Greer was interviewed by police four times, Armijo said. Her story changed several times, making it unclear how the children died. Autopsies list the cause of death as "blunt force trauma." Both children were found with fractured skulls, faces, extremities and ribs, all in different stages of healing.

Williams, however, said Henry and Odessa could have drowned or suffocated. Their fractures could have resulted from the fall down the sewer.

Both sides agree Henry likely died May 1, 1994.

Armijo told the jury that Greer once told police that she told her son to take a bath after she found him soaked in urine during his timeout. Greer said her son "peed on himself" again after the bath to get even for being put in the corner, Armijo said.

Henry was standing in the bathtub with a dizzy look on his face, Greer told police. She walked away for a moment and when she came back, he was under water. Bubbles floated upward. Blood was coming out of his mouth and nose. She did not seek medical help, Armijo said. Instead, she left him on a mattress to die.

In another version, Armijo said, Greer told police that after she got angry, she hit Henry several times with a tennis racquet, and Linner put the boy in the tub, where he drowned.

Odessa died two to three weeks later, Armijo said. Greer admitted to police that she hit Odessa with an iron pole before her death.

But again, she gave different versions about how Odessa died. In one version, the little girl was punished by having a gag put in her mouth. She was pushed hard by Greer into a closet, where she was left for 18 hours.

Williams said Greer also told police that Linner stuffed something in Odessa's mouth and that she was bleeding from her vaginal area.

The trial resumes today and is expected to continue for about three weeks.

Copyright 1999, Arizona Central