Grand Jury Testimony Sheds Light on Sparks Murder

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The man accused of killing the ex-husband of a Sparks judge Dec. 1 made comments months before about his disdain for the victim, according to grand jury transcripts.

Judge Susan Deriso frequently stopped by the Flower Bucket florist in Sparks and discussed her impending divorce with her friend, Cathy Langsdahl, a store employee, the Daily Sparks Tribune reported.

On several occasions, Langsdahl's longtime, live-in boyfriend, Jerry Harkins, reportedly listened in and made known his dislike for Miles Deriso. Harkins was arrested earlier this month and charged in the killing.

"He said things like, `You know, (Deriso) would be better off - that son-of-a-bitch would be better off dead," said a flower shop employee whose identity was being kept secret. "(Harkins) said he could take care of that type of situation."

The transcribed testimony is included in a 198-page transcript of the grand jury hearing. Among other things, it shows there was a long-standing relationship between the Derisos and the accused murderer's family.

Susan Deriso, Sparks Justice of the Peace, was one of 15 witnesses who testified to the grand jury.

Crying intermittently, she said she and Miles had been married since 1979, but that she moved out of their Burnside Court home in September 2003, before their divorce.

Judge Deriso described herself as an "acquaintance" of Cathy Langsdahl. They've known each other for 12 years, she said.

Langsdahl and Harkins live about a quarter-mile away from the Deriso's home. The two Langsdahl children were friends with two of the Deriso's children, Susan Deriso said.

The judge said she occasionally bought flowers at the Flower Bucket, where both Cathy Langsdahl and Jerry Harkins worked.

Judge Deriso said, "It was an acquaintance I have (had) over the years. It was basically the kids that were friends, but there is a flower shop involved. When I needed flowers, I contacted Cathy. If she needed legal help she would call and ask me for help. We never did anything together. We never went to movies we never did anything on the outside."

Susan Deriso said Langsdahl frequently questioned her about the divorce.

"I never talked to Jerry. My conversations were always with Cathy. Jerry almost wasn't part of the equation," Susan Deriso said.

But she remembered that Jerry once said - in what the judge thought was a threatening way - "Being from Texas, we know how to handle problems there."

A former Flower Bucket employee who came forward and called police after the killing testified that Judge Deriso and Langsdahl were "best friends."

The employee said she was present in the flower shop when Harkins made "numerous" threats against Miles Deriso.

"Jerry on one occasion stated to us that where he comes from in Texas, they handle things differently and that when the police and the law officials can't take care of their job, (Texans) step in and take care of it," the woman testified.

Harkins is a felon with an extensive criminal history.

The woman testified that, "He doesn't have any respect for the law. He believes that they are just corrupt, basically. And that would be him and Cathy, both."

Harkins became a suspect minutes after Deriso was shot once in the torso at about 2 a.m. at his home.

A wounded Deriso let himself in through the unlocked front door of Wayne Whitton, his next-door neighbor, and said he'd been shot. He asked Whitton to call 911.

"(Deriso) told me that a gentleman by the name of Jerry shot him and that he was paid to shoot him," Whitton testified.

Physical evidence discovered by police included a bloody, white surgical glove and a bloody surgical glove fragment on the sidewalk of Express Street. It had Harkins' blood on it, forensic DNA specialist Renee Romero said.

Harkins had blood on his collar and shirt. He also had some cuts on his back near the shoulder, police said.

Investigators also did a DNA analysis of a baseball cap found in Deriso's kitchen, where a struggle took place. DNA testing showed the baseball cap belonged to Harkins, Romero said.

However, police never found the gun used to shoot Deriso nor the bullet that killed him.

In their unsuccessful search for the bullet, police pulled up carpeting and carpet padding. They also knocked holes in the walls of Deriso's home.