SALT LAKE CITY — Gina George wanted to leave her husband, Jim.
He had become increasingly controlling over the years, she said, telling her when she could leave the house and asking her to quit work so that his dinner would be ready for him when he returned each day.
Gina George said she planned to attend an unrelated civil court hearing on Sept. 21, 2012, and afterward, she and her son, Rosco Brackett, were heading to Missouri. She would call Jim George when they were on their way and tell him she was leaving him, she testified Tuesday.
But on Sept. 13, just a week before she would put that plan into action, her husband — James Michael George, 52 — was shot multiple times in his West Valley home. He died from his injuries two days later.
Her son Brackett, who was 16 at the time, was charged as an adult with murder, a first-degree felony.
George's testimony Tuesday came during the first day of a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to order Brackett, who is now 18, to stand trial for the death of his stepfather.
George said the three had eaten dinner and drank milkshakes together earlier that evening. After Brackett left and went outside, she and her husband argued about her son's GED and applications he had submitted.
Later, after her husband fell asleep, she said she sent her son a text message asking him to bring her headphones to her. She then went into the bathroom and after some time, she said she heard a single gunshot. After taking out her headphones, she then heard four more shots.
When she came out of the bathroom, she saw Jim George lying on the floor with blood all around him.
George said she was not paying much attention to what her son was doing after she discovered that her husband had been shot.
“I was more focused on Jim than anything,” she said.
West Valley police detective John Pittman testified that Brackett initially told him he was in his room playing video games when he heard several shots.
But detectives told the teen that the evidence didn't match up with what he was telling them. Pittman said Brackett later changed his story and admitted that he and his stepfather had been arguing in the kitchen.
According to Pittman, the teen told him his stepfather went to his bedroom and began looking for something near the headboard of the bed. Gina George earlier testified that the couple kept guns in that area of the bedroom and kept a total of 18 guns inside the house.
Brackett told the detective he then grabbed his own gun from the living room and fired a shot above his stepfather's head to "scare him," Pittman testified.
He said Jim George then charged him and hit him twice in the chest and once in the head. Pittman said Brackett then admitted shooting his stepfather in the head, and said he knew that at least one more bullet hit him before the gun ran out of ammunition.
Brackett then allegedly admitted hiding the gun in the dog's bed, which is where police later recovered the weapon.
Pittman said he left the room periodically while questioning Brackett. When the teen was alone in the room, Pittman testified that he heard him muttering to himself.
Pittman said he heard Brackett say things such as, “I’ve only hit him four or five times,” “I emptied all of them,” and that he “wished Jim didn’t die.”
Witnesses testified that Brackett had dropped out of school at age 16, was on drugs and was not working. Those issues became a source of contention between Brackett and his stepfather.
George said that her husband did not like Brackett. "(Jim) did not like having someone with baggage,” she said.
George testified that her marriage soured when they began having financial problems. Jim George initially spoiled her, she said, but later become more controlling, refusing to allow her to leave their home after he came home from work. He also forbade her from buying her prescribed pain medication, which she admitted to buying more of on the streets. She eventually turned to methamphetamine to manage her pain.
Gina George even admitted that she had taken meth Tuesday morning before her testimony.
But the victim's sister described Jim George as "one of the sweetest people I've ever known. He was my heart," Ann Marie Gilley said, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.
The rest of the preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 22, when testimony from the medical examiner and other witnesses is scheduled.
In addition to murder, Brackett also faces charges of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, and felony discharge of a firearm, a third-degree felony.
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