Sandra Steen says first statements to police cannot be believed

Published 12:10 am Saturday, January 14, 2017

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY – Sandra Steen, survivor of a vicious attack in 2013 that left her battered and in and out of consciousness during a night of 31-degree weather, can remember how she spent her day before the attack in detail, but the testimony of the attack that she told detectives in the days after the incident should not be believed, she said.

Questioning of Sandra Steen finished up on Friday afternoon during the murder trial of Jeff Steen.

Jeff Steen has been accused of beating his grandfather, J.D. Furr, to death with a potato hoe and trying to kill his mother back in 2013.

Sandra Steen, Jeff Steen’s mother, has said she was attacked from behind and choked to unconsciousness. She woke up at different points of the night and tried to crawl back to her house, but kept blacking out.

She was left outside in the cold all night and ended up suffering from hypothermia.

After watching Steen’s testimony given to police detectives while she was in the hospital, Brandy Cook, Rowan District attorney, continued questioning Steen.

Cook said Steen told detectives that she thought at first that it was her son who grabbed her from behind and started choking her that night, but when he returned the next morning she was not so sure it was him.

Jeff Steen made the 911 call to get help for his mother. He tried to find blankets to warm her up, but after finding none, lay on top of her to keep her warm while waiting for emergency services personnel.

J.D. Furr was found also lying outside of his home that morning. Prosecutors believe he was beaten to death with a potato hoe that was found next to his body. There was also a wallet with no cash in it next to his body.

Cook asked Steen why she felt differently the next morning.

“I didn’t want to believe it,” Steen responded, adding that she could not remember the person she saw the night before.

Cook asked Steen if she saw the person who attacked her in the courtroom and to point out that attacker.

“Jeff Steen, my son,” she said, pointing to Jeff.

Cook also played a phone call for the jury between Sandra Steen and Jeff while he was in jail.

It started with some small talk, including Jeff asking about his son, Jordan.

Eventually they talked about the attack. Sandra Steen could be heard asking Jeff why he would attack her and kill his grandfather.

“How could you do that to that man? That was my daddy,” she said.

Jeff Steen could be heard denying the accusations and apologizing. Sandra Steen asked him to confess to make things easier on himself.

“This one action has destroyed so many lives,” she could be heard saying.

The conversation ended with Sandra and Jeff saying “I love you” to each other.

Jeff Steen’s attorney, Darrin Jordan, then cross examined Sandra Steen. He confirmed with Steen that there were times that Jeff helped on his grandfather’s farm by himself. Steen said it would not be unusual for Jeff to have gone to the farm to work on the morning she was found.

Later in questioning, Steen said it might have been unusual for Jeff to have come to the farm so early because operating the machinery may have woken J.D. Furr.

Jordan also confirmed with Steen that although Jeff talked about his grandfather’s farm, he said he wanted to build a house and move onto the property, so he could not have wanted it for monetary reasons.

Jeff owed his grandfather money, but Jordan said other grandchildren also borrowed money from Furr. And Steen also had financial problems, including about $42,000 of debt.

That all ran against prosecutors trying to convince the jury that Jeff killed his grandfather to inherit the farm and solve his financial issues.

Jordan said Furr would talk to people about his business while he was in town, including banking methods and other financial information. Steen said she was concerned about Furr doing that because she was afraid other would overhear and bring him harm.

Steen moved in with her father a couple of years before his death and helped him with the farm.

Jordan repeatedly brought up inconsistencies between Steen’s first few testimonies to detectives and her current testimony.

Steen said she walked to an outbuilding to put some things away when she heard “a raised voice.” Thinking it was Furr calling, she walked out of the building and was attacked from behind soon after.

Jordan pointed out that Steen did not tell the detectives about the voice she heard. Steen said she remembered that afterwards and told Lt. Chad Moose about it in either 2014 or 2015.

Steen then said that her first couple of statements should not be believed because she was on medication, suffering from head trauma and confused about what happened. She often said she confused some of her dreams with reality.

Steen told detectives she believed her attacker was wearing a ski mask and it could have been more than one person. On the witness stand, she said she was confused at the time and guessed at what could have happened.

Jordan went over other parts of her preliminary testimonies, saying that Steen was able to go over the details of her day before the attack, correct detectives when they got details wrong and describe the location of Furr’s lockbox.

Steen said because of her traumatic brain injury, she was able to remember everything from before and after the attack, but not the attack itself.

“There were some things I could come clear on and some I couldn’t,” she said.

Steen said she told detectives the man who attacked her was wearing a ski mask and was muscular because those are the things that “popped into my head.” She said she hoped part of what she said would be correct.

Steen said her eyelid was lifted during the night of the incident and she saw Jeff’s face, but Jordan said when EMS arrived, she did not tell them she thought Jeff was a threat.

Steen said she was in pain and cold and did not think it was her son who attacked her until weeks later, when the swelling in her brain was reduced.

Steen was on the ground after the attack until the next morning and said she heard her son calling out for her after finding his grandfather. She said when she heard his voice, she was scared but did not know why.

Jordan pointed out that she still called out to Jeff for help and Steen said it was because she needed help from someone.

Jordan said Steen did not say anything stronger than she thought it was Jeff to detectives during testimonies. Steen said she knew it was Jeff who attacked her a couple of weeks afterwards, but she did not want to admit it.

District attorney Brandy Cook took her chance at redirect examination and asked Steen if she had anything to gain from saying her son attacked her and killed her father.

Steen said she would gain nothing but more heartache.

The trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. in courtroom 2 of the Rowan County Courthouse on Tuesday.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.