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Rowan detective found “red flags” in Jeff Steen’s statement

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County Detective Jason Owens said after interviewing Jeff Steen about the murder of his grandfather, 87-year-old J.D. Furr, and the attempted murder of his then 62-year-old mother Sandra Steen, the veteran investigator was immediately met with a couple of red flags.

Owens said during his first conversation with Jeff Steen, Nov. 6, 2013, the morning he’d found his mother and grandfather, they talked in the front seat of his car and he took a written statement from him.

The detective said the primary reason for the initial statement was to “rule him out” he told the court Friday, and make sure Jeff Steen wasn’t involved in the killing. Steen showed the detective injuries to his hands, but didn’t immediately disclose he had scratches all over both arms.

Other detectives have testified throughout the trial that Jeff Steen had scratches on his arms, however swabs of DNA taken from underneath Sandra Steen’s fingernails were her own.

Although Steen seemed nervous at the time, Owens noted in his testimony, he didn’t find it unusual considering he’d found his grandfather dead and his mother barely alive.

But, what gave him pause was that Steen said he’d made three trips back home to Albemarle after leaving parts there for a ceiling fan he was repairing at his grandfather’s house, but then did not return to the farm after receiving a call from his mother.

Owens said Steen said he’d gotten a call from his mother and “accidentally” deleted the message. Steen told him he called the house phone back twice, but never heard from his mother or grandfather. Steen told the detective he had to get to work.

Owens said he thought it was odd that after already having made three trips on a 20-minute drive back and forth from Albemarle to Richfield that Steen didn’t see the need to drive back to the farm one more time to check on his mother and grandfather, who lived in the middle of nowhere.

The detective also said he didn’t buy Steen’s story of accidentally deleting a message from his mother. Owens said he had a similar iPhone and it wasn’t that easy to delete a message. He said there were actually a few steps in order to delete a message.

Owens would go on to interview Steen a couple more times including an audio recording in his car still at the scene with Detective Adam Loflin and a video recorded interview at the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office days later.

Billy Steen, the father of Jeff Steen, told the court he figured his son went to his grandfather’s house that next morning, Nov. 6, 2013, to mend a fence. Jeff Steen had said in statements that was the reason he went to the house that morning.

The court heard from two of Billy Steen’s friends, Clyde Harward and Wanda Locklear, Harward’s then-girlfriend. Both Locklear and Harward corroborated Billy Steen’s testimony that the night Furr was killed he was at his home with them drinking beer and watching the TV show Moonshiners.

The court also heard briefly from Jimmy Carver, who lives on Richfield Road, off River Road where J.D. Furr’s property was located. Carver said his daughter had been coon hunting and a dog didn’t return. He said they went near River Road to listen for the dog and see if they could spot him.

Carver said he never heard or saw any vehicles leaving the area the night of Nov. 5, 2013. He said they were camped out on Reeves Island Road. Reeves Island Road is less than three miles down the road from Furr’s property at 6225 River Road.

Ed Listerman, one of Furr’s neighbors, told the court he’s lived on River Road for 27 years and was Furr’s closest neighbor. Listerman also worked with Furr at Alcoa.

His testimony matched statements that had already been made in court including Furr never woke early and he was always armed. Listerman had also known Jeff Steen owed his grandfather money as did some of Furr’s other grandchildren.

He said a month before Furr’s murder, Jeff Steen arrived at the farm to put up fence posts and Listerman offered to let Furr use a machine that he had to speed up the process. Furr told Listerman he needed to get his money, meaning he needed Jeff to work off the money he owed.

Listerman has since bought J.D. Furr’s farm along with Susan Salmon. Sandra Steen still lives on the property.

Billy Joe Murray, a friend of Furr’s since 1958, had lost track of Furr and then reconnected. Murray said he believed he talked to Furr just about every other day. Murray knew Furr had money and tried to convince him to put it a safe deposit box, but Furr didn’t want to pay the $50 a year. He said Furr also took his money out of the bank because of the interest rate.

Other friends James and Chad Cranford, a father and son, both said they hunted on the farm for years. The two hunted on the property Nov. 5, 2013 along with friend Bryan Lambert. Lambert is the Badin police chief and has known Furr for 30 years.

The men said they did not hear anything. They all left around 6:30 p.m.

David Harwood, Jeff Steen’s first cousin, said he’d spoken with Steen right after news of Furr’s death and Sandra Steen’s attack spread to other family members. Harwood said he wouldn’t say he and Steen were close.

Harwood also said his cousin, Jeff, told him the “police were looking at him for the murder.”

The cousins spoke about whether the incident may have been a robbery. Harwood recalled a conversation with Jeff Steen about Furr having money in his house. He said Jeff told him the family had looked around years ago and never found any money in the house.

Rowan detectives have said Sandra Steen told them her father had money inside a safe on the property. Detectives testified they found $10,000 in various envelopes on the property.

The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. on Monday.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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