Russell Jones let a Modesto police sergeant and a detective buy him cigarettes and invited the pair into his home, offering them seats because it was "polite."
Jones, who had been talking to police for days and admitted to burying Dena Raley-McCluskey in the foothills, then changed his story, saying he sent his roommate crashing to the floor with a single punch after a fight over a $20 bill. Before then, Jones had told police he found Raley-McCluskey dead on the bathroom floor.
Jones testified Tuesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court that his confession was false. Defense attorney Frank Carson said Jones' statements should be suppressed because Jones was coerced by police.
"(The police were) telling me 'We believe you if you told us it was an accident,' " Jones said. "They were basically giving me the ideas to work with."
Never miss a local story.
Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees questioned Jones about how he could be comfortable enough to make casual conversation with investigators, accept their offers of car rides and agree to go to lunch with them if he was intimidated or afraid.
"Kidnapped or captured people try to get along with their tormenters," Carson responded.
Jones, 49, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and is being held in lieu of $2 million bail. After the preliminary hearing, which continues today, Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Marie Silveira will decide if Jones should stand trial.
The body of Raley-McCluskey, 36, was unearthed in a shallow grave in Tuolumne County on Nov. 1, 2007.
Raley-McCluskey was last seen by her family Oct. 10, 1999.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2337.