The trial for Dakota White, one of two Houston County teens accused in the October 2016 strangulation slaying of Sam Poss, began here Tuesday with White’s lawyers emphasizing their contention that Poss’s death would have remained a mystery were it not for their client.
The defense painted White, who was 17 when the killing happened, as a “child” in the “darkness” of suicidal despair when Poss, 18, was allegedly lured out late one mid-October night, strangled, stabbed and buried in some woods near Lake Joy.
“He took detectives to Sam’s body,” one of White’s attorneys, Megan Allen, told jurors in her opening statement. “It was with his words that we know the answers.”
But videotaped confessions that White made to a pair of Perry police detectives showed the chilling, calculating side of the killing. White, now 19, said he and another teen, Brandon Warren, now 20, had a suicide pact.
White, who had tried to commit suicide a couple of weeks earlier and been hospitalized, said he and Warren were going to kill themselves, but that they figured they “might as well see what it feels like to kill someone before we killed ourselves.”
White and Warren, who is expected to go on trial next week, each face murder and other serious charges, including concealing Poss’s death.
Poss’s disappearance made headlines across the region a year and a half ago. After Poss’s father learned that Poss had last been seen with White the night Poss vanished, supposedly after visiting White’s house to help with some computer-game coding, investigators zeroed in on White as a suspect.
Prosecutors on Tuesday played a recording of White speaking to a Perry police officer early in the search for Poss. When the officer asked White where White thought Poss might be, White replied, “I have no clue.”
It was not until a day or two later that White, in the wee hours of October 20, 2016, led investigators to Poss’s body. White did so after revealing the particulars of Poss’s death to the Perry detectives. White, a ninth-grade dropout whose father is in prison for armed robbery, at times spilled details of the killing in a conversational, chatty tone, the way someone might discuss a ballgame or a movie.
White said he and Warren discussed selecting a victim but settled on Poss because he would be an easy target.
White’s confession first emerged when Perry detective Jason Jones asked White, “Tell me what happened.”
“Sam’s not alive,” White replied.
White, after hanging his head and sobbing, said Poss’s body was near a neighborhood off Lake Joy Road.
Asked again what happened, White explained, “I was having really bad thoughts. … I just felt like I could kill someone. … It didn’t matter. We were gonna die afterwards.”
White said he drove over and picked up Poss, who lived near him in Perry, and drove him to White’s grandparents’ house at 1102 Tucker Road. White, who also lived there, said his grandparents were away for the weekend and that he and Warren killed Poss while sitting in a car in the driveway.
White said he first choked Poss with a telephone wire, but the wire broke. When it did, White said Poss asked what they were doing to him. White said he told Poss, “I’m sorry.”
White said he strangled Poss with his arms, squeezing the life out of him for some 20 minutes, later putting a plastic bag over his victim’s head to “make sure” he died.
White later told Jones, the detective, “I knew I wasn’t gonna get away with it. ... I felt too bad.”
Jones asked why White chose Poss.
“He was a good kid,” White answered, “a nice guy.”
White said he knew Poss was a computer whiz and, despite the late hour, Poss would likely agree to help White with his made-up, computer-game glitch, which was just a ruse to lure Poss.
“It was easy,” White said.
He said he later spent 10 hours cleaning the car Poss was killed in, which belonged to his grandparents.
“There was blood everywhere,” White said.
In a later interview with the detectives, he said he spent $16 or so for a bottle of carpet-cleaning solvent.
“Resolve,” he added, “is really expensive.”