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Perry denies murdering Easton man in Las Vegas hotel room

| Saturday, May 12, 2012, 6:50 p.m.

Seward native Paulette Perry took the witness stand in a Las Vegas courtroom Friday and tearfully denied murdering an Easton man.

Instead, Perry said David Sygnarski, during a crack cocaine binge in a Las Vegas hotel room, was killed by her boyfriend, Kenneth Grant, 35, of Greensburg.

"I don't know what to say!" Perry said from the witness stand in hysterics. "He died! He died! He died!"

Perry said Grant stabbed the 44-year-old Sygnarski in the neck after he made a series of unwanted sexual advances to Perry.

"Mr. Sygnarski was cut by Kenny with a Swiss army knife, a knife Kenny used to cut cocaine, open beer bottles," she said.

The drama was by far the most profound moment of Perry's week-long trial. Perry, 34, is charged with murder and robbery in the death of Sygnarski, who was stabbed 15 times in the neck and then stuffed underneath a bed in Perry's room at the Maxim resort.

Nevada prosecutors contend Perry, who admits to being a prostitute, lured Sygnarski to the room so that she and Grant could rob and kill him.

Grant is scheduled to go to trial on robbery and murder charges next month.

Before Perry actually took the stand yesterday, defense attorney Andrew Myers called Perry's mother. Mary Walker, of Seward, told how she got pregnant with Perry in the 1960s.

"I was an unwed mother in the '60s...It was not something that was accepted," she said.

Walker said she thought she was going to put Perry up for adoption, and the first 10 months of Perry's life were spent in a foster home.

But she changed her mind and she and her new husband, Wesley Walker, retrieved Perry and raised her.

"Up until she was 11 or 12, we had a normal daughter with normal kid problems," a soft-spoken Wesley Walker testified.

He said around this time, however, Perry changed and became a problem teen.

"She was going to do what she wanted to, when and how she wanted to," Walker said.

Perry took the stand next and explained that at about the time she became rebellious, she was having sex with her grandfather.

"I became sexually involved with my grandfather," she said. "He never penetrated me, but I had oral sex with him. I was sexually active with my grandfather."

Perry said she ran away from home at age 14 and in her early 20s married a Seward man, but the marriage failed. She eventually moved to Texas where she worked as a stripper and eventually as a prostitute.

"I got drunk, and I knew I had to do something," she said. "I wasn't making it as a housewife or a stripper."

Perry said while working for an escort service in Texas, she met a Fresno, Calif., doctor named Norio Takayama. He ended up giving her thousands of dollars in support.

She said she was heavy into crack cocaine but briefly cleaned up her life and moved to Greensburg.

"I got a job," she said. "I was a hamburger maker at Wendy's."

She said she met Grant at a drug rehabilitation program and she fell for him.

"I liked Kenny," she said. "I had never met a person beside Kenny who had stopped smoking crack."

Perry said she chose to live in Greensburg because it had more to offer than Seward.

"They have taxis, Seward does not," she said. "They have red lights, stores, opportunities."

But within a short period of time, she said she and Grant were back to their old ways — smoking crack and shooting heroin while she survived in large part off the money wired to her by the California doctor.

In April 2001, she came to Las Vegas and she and Grant rented the room at the Maxim. She said she met Sygnarski at a Las Vegas crack house within walking distance of the hotel.

"I noticed him," she said. "He was different. He was smiling. He looked like a person I might want to talk to."

She said she invited Sygnarski back to her room.

"I asked him if he wanted to go back to my room to smoke instead of going behind a Dumpster, which is where he was headed," she said.

The two returned to Perry's room and she, Sygnarski and Grant got high. She said Grant left the room for a few minutes and Sygnarski unzipped his pants, expecting a sex act.

"Mr. Sygnarski became sexual with me," she said. "I want to say he knew I was a hooker. I was at a dope house, I was in a hotel room with a black man, I was smoking. He thought it was time to get busy."

She said she had no interest in sex and when he continued to demand sex, she hit him in the head with a phone. They struggled, and Grant returned.

"There was a confrontation between the two of them and I was pushed out of the way," she said.

She said Grant and Sygnarski struggled and Grant stabbed the man in the neck.

"It seemed like forever," she said. "At the same time it happened very quickly."

"I said 'Oh God, I should call somebody, the paramedics,'" she said as Sygnarski lay on the hotel room floor, blood pouring from his neck.

"I told him, 'You are going to be OK, you are going to be OK.'...But then I stood there, and I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing," she said.

Perry acknowledged helping Grant put Sygnarski's body in trash bags and placing it under the bed. She said she never called police and that she also helped clean up the room because "I was afraid."

"I couldn't even acknowledge what had happened in my mind," she said.

Her defense attorney asked whether she and Grant had planned to murder Sygnarski and whether she had lured him to the room with this in mind.

"No, I did not," she said.

Perry returns to the stand Monday afternoon for cross-examination by prosecutors.

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