Two witnesses testified Tuesday that Vernon Dale Garner rushed into a mobile home one night in April, pointed a shotgun at two men and dragged his girlfriend outside about 45 minutes before she was fatally shot.
Garner, 36, of Graham, is on trial in Alamance County Superior Court on seven charges, including the first-degree murder of Debra Mills Brown. District Attorney Steve A. Balog is seeking the death penalty.The prosecution rested its case Tuesday after two days of evidence. Defense testimony is scheduled to begin today.
David Sperling of Altamahaw and Jennifer Shatterly of Burlington testified that they witnessed the start of the attack at Charles Steven Barbour's mobile home on N.C. 87 about 8 miles south of Graham.
Brown went to the mobile home with Sperling, Shatterly and Barbour after she and Shatterly got off work about 2 a.m. from the Party Time Lounge, where they worked as waitresses, according to testimony. Barbour's mobile home was beside the lounge, and Brown lived nearby.
Sperling and Shatterly testified that Garner telephoned the mobile home and then came to visit uninvited in the early hours of April 15.
``He arrived, came in the front door, pointed a shotgun at me, told me to get in the floor or I'm dead,' said Sperling, 33. ``Steve started to say something to him, and (Garner) told him to shut up, in so many words, or he would blow his head off.'
Shatterly said Garner forced Brown outside with the shotgun.
``He put it to her head and jerked her shirt,' said Shatterly, 19. ``He dragged her outside.'
Sperling said Garner and Brown were outside for at least 30 minutes before he heard a gunshot, but no one apparently was hurt because the couple continued talking. About 15 minutes later, Sperling said, he heard a second shot.
``The only clear words I heard were Debbie saying, 'No, Vernon, no,' ' Sperling testified. ``There was another shot, and (Garner) said, 'You can come and get her. She's yours.' '
Sperling testified that he gave that account in December to a private investigator working for Garner's defense. But under questioning from defense lawyer Craig T. Thompson, Sperling said that in his original statement to officers, he did not provide those details.
Brown's brother, Barry E. ``Buddy' Mills Jr., testified that his sister wanted to break off her romance with Garner, the father of the youngest of her three children. Authorities have said the couple lived together off and on for 7 1/2 years and had a history of domestic disputes.
``She told me that she wished Vernon would quit coming down there or calling,' Mills testified while the jury was out of the courtroom. ``She said she was finally getting some direction for her life, and she had outgrown Vernon.'
Eugene E. Bishop, a forensic firearms specialist for the State Bureau of Investigation, testified that Brown was shot with a .410-gauge shotgun from less than 3 feet away.
Besides murder, Garner is charged with first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary, discharging a firearm into occupied property, communicating threats and two counts of assault by pointing a gun.