Kevin Ray Underwood sat stone-faced Monday afternoon as one of his closest friends, who had always defended the social outcast from bullies, rubbed tears away from his face as he told jurors he was not sure he would ever speak to the convicted killer again.
Underwood was convicted Friday of brutally killing a 10-year-old girl in April 2006.
When Daniel McDade heard Underwood was a suspect in Jamie's death, he said he couldn't believe the friend he knew could really do such a thing. But after learning the truth, McDade said he was not sure he would remain in contact with Underwood, despite the outcome of the sentencing trial.
McDade was one of several witnesses called Monday as defense attorneys attempted to present a case to show jurors why they should spare the life of the 28-year-old former grocery stocker who could face the death penalty for the death of Jamie Rose Bolin.
The two became friends because of Underwood's funny "chipmunk laugh,” and his off-the-wall, odd behavior. But McDade told jurors that those same characteristics frequently led to Underwood being ridiculed and "beat up” at school, and that Underwood's father was a hard man who wanted his son to be a more "normal kid like everybody else.”
"He wanted him to stand up for himself,” McDaniel testified. "He would say things like ‘stop being such a wussy.'”
Chris Lansdale, who considered Underwood "like a brother” recalled that both he and McDade always "stood up for Underwood” because their red-headed friend was picked on almost daily, and he never fought back.
"He sat there like a sponge, just absorbing the bullying,” Lansdale said. "… It was just his nature not to fight back.”
And despite the fact that he had a few defenders, Lansdale said, the bullying never went away.
"It was nonstop harassment,” Lansdale said, adding that Underwood could not even drive down Main Street in Purcell without other students trying to pull him over and drag him out of his car so they could pick on him.
On one occasion, Lansdale recalled, a few seniors took a roll of duct tape and wrapped it around Underwood's head.
"Me and my brothers got even with them for that,” Lansdale said, "but he never asked for help ... ever.”
Lansdale reiterated Underwood's stark and cold relationship with his father, whom Underwood simply referred to by first name ... "Beau.”
"Beau would always just say real jerk things to him, and insult his friends,” Lansdale said.
Just a few weeks before Underwood killed the young girl, Lansdale said he visited Underwood. They ate pizza, drank some beer and went to a strip club in Oklahoma City. At the end of the night, Lansdale said he could tell Underwood seemed troubled and extremely tense but wouldn't confide in Lansdale.
"When we left, I asked him what was wrong,” Lansdale said. "He started to say something then clammed up on me.”
In his opening statement Monday, defense attorney Wayne Woodyard told jurors that as a child, Underwood had early signs of social anxiety, but it was made manageable through a network of close friends who stood up for him and became his lifeline to tether him to reality.