Charles Kenneth McCovey - charged with murdering a West Valley woman during arobbery of a video store last April - says he went to the store to rob it for drug money and didn't intend to kill anyone.
It was only after he saw a piece of a barrette with hair in it lying on the floor of the store that he realized something awful had happened.Choking back tears at times, McCovey, 44, also known as Charles Kenneth Hodges, took the witness stand in his own defense Friday afternoon to tell a jury how drugs, alcohol and a customer's resistance contributed to his accidentally shooting Anna Holmes.
Holmes, 31, who was eight months pregnant, was pronounced dead of a gunshot wound to the head a few hours after the shooting. Doctors delivered her baby, which, because of the trauma, was mentally retarded, a fact the jury is not allowed to know.
Prosecutors, who plan to seek the death penalty, allege that McCovey killed Holmes intentionally.
But McCovey maintains it was an accident.
"I never intended to fire the gun, never," said McCovey, under questioning by public defender Andrew Valdez. When Valdez asked him to identify the murder weapon, McCovey momentarily became tearful.
McCovey explained he had only been in Salt Lake County for a few weeks after his ex-wife in Provo told him he had to leave because she was remarrying. He met some friends, Kathy and Raymond Young, who let him stay at their Kearns home.
On April 22, McCovey, who hadn't slept for days because of his addiction to amphetamines, decided he had to rob a store to support his habit.
He testified that Raymond Young drove him to a market. While Young went inside the market, McCovey went inside the nearby video store. "I figured it would be an easy place to rob."
After wandering around the store a short time, McCovey pulled a snub-nosed .38-caliber revolver from his pants, grabbed a customer, Dennis Watkins, and pushed him to the front of the store, where Holmes and others were gathered.
Watkins was not cooperative, McCovey testified. "I told him to move and to back up and he continued to stand there . . . I then cocked the gun because I thought it would intimidate him to back up."
At the front of the store, by the cashier, McCovey grabbed Holmes and put the gun up to the back of her head. He demanded money from the cash register and then ordered the clerk to give him what was under the counter.
As the clerk got something from under the counter, McCovey let go of Watkins and backed away, still holding Holmes by the neck.
"Mr. Watkins, either voluntarily or involuntarily, made a move . . . I turned to tell him to stand still . . . and I fired the gun."
McCovey said he didn't hear a loud noise, just a "pop."> "I know something had happened. I didn't want to know that something serious had happened . . . As I was leaving the store, something caught my eye . . . I recall seeing a hair comb or barrette with hair in it . . . It was in front of me on the floor." McCovey also realized he had blood splattered on his face.
Contrary to the testimony of Brandy Holmes, one of Holmes' daughters who witnessed the shooting, McCovey testified he never said, "That's the end of her," or "That'll take care of her."
Brandy, in fact, was the only witness who said McCovey made such statements.
After fleeing the store, McCovey ran to Young's car, telling him he had just shot a woman. Young at first would not let McCovey inside the car but later gave him a ride, dropping him off a few blocks away.
Young is charged with being an accessory to the homicide and robbery. A trial for Young has not been scheduled.
Valdez called Young to the stand Friday afternoon but Young, on the advice of his attorney, invoked his constitutional right not to be compelled to testify against himself.
Under cross examination by Ernie Jones, deputy Salt Lake County attorney, McCovey said that on April 22, he was under the influence of a quarter-gram of speed, taken intravenously, 75 methamphetamine tablets, a pint of Vodka and a beer.
Earlier, psychologist Michael DeCaria testified that McCovey is remorseful about the death and refers to the victim respectfully, calling her "Mrs. Holmes."
"That is unusual. Very few (murder suspects) . . . have shown the degree of respect for the victim that Mr. McCovey has."
The trial will resume Tuesday morning before 3rd District Judge Raymond Uno.>