BURLINGTON, Ky. - Tears filled Debbie Sterling's eyes Thursday as she sat in a Boone County courtroom and listened to gruesome and graphic details about the murder and dismemberment of Daniel Delfin, 19, of Walton.
The testimony came from Boone County Sheriff's Department Detective Jeremy Rosing, who said the killing was pre-planned by three Northern Kentucky men who were upset Delfin was selling heroin in Walton and Verona.
Det. Rosing said Delfin was beaten, choked, stabbed and once he was dead was dismembered off Messmer Lane in Verona with a machete and saws.
Sterling's interest in the case was purely personal. Her son, Anthony Baumgartner, is one of three men who might face the death penalty at trial.
Jefferey Allen and Stephen Harkness of Verona and Baumgartner, who lives in Florence, are being held without bail at the Boone County Jail on charges of kidnapping, murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence.
Boone District Judge Charles Moore ruled that there was enough evidence in the case to have it presented to a grand jury for consideration.
"He's a good kid," said Sterling said of her son. "I love him."
The current Mississippi resident said she is having a tough time coping with the situation.
"Take the worst thing you can think your child can be accused of doing and multiply it by infinity and beyond," Sterling said.
The police case began on Jan. 14 when Det. Rosing began a missing persons investigation. Delfin's sister reported him missing the day before.
Unknown to everyone but Allen, Baumgartner and Harkness, Delfin was already dead. He'd been killed on Jan. 9 and his body cut up over the next several days.
Records from Delfin's cellphone showed it active until about 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 13. It's last text or call was recorded on a tower in Crittenden. However, that didn't provide enough information to find him.
The break in the case came a short time later when a woman called the Boone County Sheriff's Department to say she'd overheard three men at Baumgartner's Florence apartment talking about kidnapping and assaulting Delfin.
Detectives interviewed the witness in Highland Heights and the information she provided was enough to convince the Boone County Commonwealth Attorney to authorize search warrants for residences in Florence and Verona along with one vehicle.
When police spotted a gray Hyundai the woman said was used in the crime, police stopped it. That was the first time they came into contact with the three men, who agreed to be interviewed.
"In those interviews all three defendants willingly gave information as to the kidnapping, murder, torturing, abuse and tampering with physical evidence," Det. Rosing told the court. "After those interviews with information obtained I placed all three of them under arrest and they were charged with murder, kidnapping, abuse and tampering."
It was during Allen's interview with detectives that police got the first inkling of a motive in the case.
"He did not like the fact that Daniel Delfin was selling drugs in the Walton-Verona area and that he had planned, one week prior to this, he had planned out that he was going to kill Daniel Delfin," Det. Rosing testified.
The three suspects picked up Delfin on High Street in Walton using the ruse that they wanted to buy heroin from him, but needed to go get more money.
Det. Rosing said Harkness drove with Baumgartner next to him in the passenger seat. Allen was in the back next to Delfin. It didn't take long for things to spiral out of control and Det. Rosing testified Allen was identified as the ringleader.
"He proceeded to physically assault Daniel Delfin with his fist, choking and with a metal bar," the detective said. "He continued to assault Daniel through the drive as Daniel was fighting to get away, asking him who he was, why this was happening, kicking the windows and kicking the doors open at which time they kept him inside the car."
At that point, Allen told police that Delfin was unresponsive and that he was snoring as thought he had a concussion or severe trauma to the head.
Once the vehicle reached Messmer Lane, near Allen's House, Delfin was pulled from the back and attacked.
"Mr. Allen slit his throat and stabbed him underneath the rib cage up into the heart and twisted the knife and pulled out," Det. Rosing stated. "They bound Mr. Delfin and then drug him back into the field at which time they rolled the body down the hill, and placed him in a bunch of brush and covered his body and then left."
Testimony indicated that the dismemberment took place over the next several days with Det. Rosing saying Allen again took the lead.
"Using a hatchet and knives, [Allen] began to cut up the body and dismember the body with the head, hands, feet and legs," Det. Rosing said. "He put the body parts into white plastic garbage bags, put them in his mother's SUV vehicle and transported them to a dumpster located at the Super 8 Motel on Dream Street in Florence, Ky."
Contents of that dumpster