By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The trial of an Oktibbeha County woman who is accused of murdering her husband will enter the fourth day of testimony today.
Verina Childs stands accused of shooting her husband, Douglas Childs, in the back while they were hunting on the morning of Nov. 22, 2009.
Brian MacIntyre, a weapons specialist with the Mississippi Crime Lab, took the stand Wednesday and testified he preformed ballistics tests on Verina’s rifle. He determined with 100 percent certainty the bullet that killed Douglas was fired from that rifle, he said.
The forensic pathologist who preformed an autopsy on Douglas, Amy Gerzeki, determined Douglas’ cause of death was from a single gunshot wound. The bullet entered through his upper left back, fractured a number of ribs and hit both a lung and his heart before coming to a stop just below his skin in the center of his chest. She testified that the injury would have caused him to bleed to death internally within one minute of the shooting. She said based on the lack of gun powder around the wound, the gun had to have been a minimum of 18 inches away from Doug’s body.
Deputy Scott Helms of the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department testified that he was the first to respond to a call about a possible hunting accident. When he arrived, he said he was met by several of the hunting club members who took him to Douglas’ body. He testified that once he was on the scene, he secured the area and unloaded Douglas’ rifle, per protocol. He said that Douglas was lying on his back with no visible injuries.
Deputy Commander William Ford testified he was the second to arrive at the scene. When he arrived, he said he lifted Douglas’ shoulder to see if there were any wounds. He said he saw blood, and advised 911 that there had been a shooting. Once on the scene, he said he took pictures for evidence. Later, he said he spoke with Verina, read her the Miranda Rights and took her original statement. He said she advised him that the gun she had hunted with that day and the clothes she wore while hunting were both in her bedroom. He said he took pictures of both the rifle, which was located on her bed, and a pile of clothes on the floor. Ford said he also looked at Verina’s phone to document text messages she said she had sent to Doug. He said that at 7:07 a.m., Verina sent a text to Doug telling him her stomach was upset and she was heading home. He said that at 7:21 a.m., she sent another text telling Douglas she was going to stay home and clean the house.
Deputy Steven Phelps testified that he was third on the scene. He stated Dale Parker approached him and told him what he had seen and heard, so he took his official statement. He said he was later ordered by Commander Brett Watson to go to Verina’s home and collect the hunting clothes she had worn earlier that day. When Verina gave him the clothes, he said that not all of them were dry and looked as if they had gone through the spin cycle in a washing machine.
Verina gave three statements in the hours following the shooting. The first was given to Deputy Commander Ford. The second interview was done by Deputy Commander Mahyar Netadj of the investigations unit. The third was given to Commander Brett Watson in a taped interview. In his testimony, Netadj stated that as Verina retold her account, he followed along with the original statement recorded by Ford, and he noticed that she repeated the story “almost verbatim, almost as if it was scripted.” He later said that although giving two statements that were so similar was not necessarily suspicious, it was unusual. Watson also testified that what she told him was “close to being word-for-word” to what was written in the other statements.
In a taped interview with Commander Watson preformed on the evening of Nov. 22, 2009, Verina spoke about the events of that day. In the hour-and-a-half long video, which was played for the jury, Verina appears soft-spoken and calm. She stated she and Doug headed out to the hunting club area in the very early morning hours, while it was still dark. She decided to hunt at the edge of a wooded area, set up a chair and sat down. She said Douglas kissed her, told her to be careful and walked away. Verina said she had been feeling sick since the night before and decided to go home to use the bathroom. She texted Douglas to tell him she was leaving. She said she went to the truck and drove home. Once she was there, she said she decided to stay and clean her father-in-law’s apartment, which is on the same property. She said she texted Douglas to tell him she wouldn’t be coming back, but to call when he was ready to come home. A few minutes later, a friend came to her door and told Verina she needed to come with her. Verina said she did not realize what was going on until she arrived at the scene. When Watson asked Verina about how her relationship was with her husband, she said they had their problems in the past, but that things had gotten much better recently. In the video, Watson went on to tell Verina that they were still investigating, but someone who had seen something had come forward with some information “of great interest.” He said he was going to give her the opportunity to tell him the truth, and if there was anything she was leaving out, she should tell him now. Verina remained quiet, and Watson asks her if she shot her husband “accidentally or otherwise.” She responded with a barely audible “No.” Watson explained to her investigators were sending her gun off to be tested, and if the slug from Douglas’ body matched her rifle, it would be “very hard to explain.” He repeatedly told her if she had anything to say, now was the time to say it. He then told her a witness had heard a shot seven minutes before she sent the first text message to Douglas. He asked her if there was any way she shot her gun. She said she would have remembered shooting, and she couldn’t have accidentally fired because her gun had two safeties. Watson reminded her when the evidence came back, it would be too late to say anything. Verina said there was nothing else she remembered and the interview ended.
The trial will continue at 9 a.m. this morning at the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court.