COLUMBIA — When Brett Parker was asked if he shot and killed his wife, Tammy Jo Parker, he had a decisive answer.
“No,” Brett Parker said. “That’s crazy.”
At other times, he said, “That’s ridiculous.”
Parker, who has been in jail since his arrest on July 20, testified in his own defense Friday. He spent more than three hours on the witness stand, defending himself against two murder charges in the deaths of his wife and his sports betting clerk, Bryan Capnerhurst. He was calm and collected as his defense attorney, David Fedor, led him through the events of April 13, 2012, at his home at 12 Tackeria Court.
But Parker became defiant when questioned by 5th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Luck Campbell, who grilled him about his religious views, his teenage daughter’s attendance at the trial and his troubled marriage before attacking his account of the shootings.
Throughout his testimony, Parker said he could not remember every detail of the shootings, often saying, “I was out of my mind.”
Prosecutors and Richland County Sheriff’s investigators have said Parker killed his wife and then shot Capnerhurst, framing Capnerhurst by placing a 9mm in his left hand. Parker, an admitted sports bookie and a gambler himself, wanted to escape mounting debt and a troubled marriage, they said.
But, as he has from the beginning, Parker said Capnerhurst killed his wife in an attempted robbery and that his killing of Capnerhurst with a separate gun was in self defense.
Parker’s was not the only testimony of the day but was the most anticipated, which was evident by the packed courtroom. Earlier testimony came from a private firearms expert and forensic scientist, who refuted gunshot residue evidence presented earlier by the prosecution.
Richard Ernest of Alliance Laboratories in Fort Worth, Texas, said the residue on Capnerhurst’s hands could have come from firing a 9mm and that Brett Parker did not have enough residue on his hands to have fired a 9mm and a .410 revolver multiple times each. He also said trace elements of residue found on a set of window blinds on the home’s first floor could have been blown there through the air conditioning system.
Parker, 43, opened his testimony with a short biography of his life, saying he graduated from Chapin High School, had lived in the Midlands all his life and had two children, Brooke, 14, and Zack, 6, with his wife, Tammy Parker.
He also quickly admitted, “As everybody knows, I was a bookie,” explaining that he took wagers on football, basketball and baseball.
He also answered questions about his gambling debt. He confessed that he was a gambling addict and that he was making payments on the $176,000 he owed another local bookie.
On the day of the shootings, Parker said he was expecting Capnerhurst to come collect a payment for working the previous betting season. Parker said he was prepared to pay Capnerhurst $5,000. He had $4,500 in his pocket but told the jury there was more money in other safes throughout the house.
Parker said he was using the downstairs bathroom when Capnerhurst came to the house, and that Parker instructed him to go to an office on the second floor. He next heard gunshots and ran out of the bathroom to find Capnerhurst waiting at the top of the stairs with a gun pointed in his direction.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Parker said. “I was panicked. I said, ‘What are you doing?’”
Capnerhurst ordered Parker to a safe in the attic, pointing the gun at him as they walked.
“As we walked by the office, I could see Tammy’s feet sticking out of the bathroom,” Parker said.
But on the walk to the attic, Parker said he made a decision.
“I’m walking with a gun at my back, but when I was walking to the safe I made the decision that it was me or him,” he said.
Parker said he had a loaded .410 Taurus revolver called “The Judge” hidden under a blanket on top of the safe.
“I grabbed it and immediately turned, and I kept pulling the trigger,” he said.
After shooting Capnerhurst, Parker said he jumped over his clerk’s body and ran to check on his wife.
“It was the most horrific thing I had ever seen,” he said as he started to cry.
From there, Parker said he checked on Capnerhurst and then called 911.
When his defense attorney asked about his first interview with investigators on the day of the shootings, Parker replied, “I’d just seen my wife murdered. I can’t think of everything going on. Everything is a blur for weeks after that. Everything.”
Parker made a couple of other references to having “seen my wife murdered,” which Campbell brought up in her lengthy cross examination. Campbell asked why he kept saying he had seen his wife murdered when his story indicated he was in the bathroom when those shots were fired.
“You twist. That’s what you do. You twist,” Parker said. “You twist more stuff than anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Campbell picked up her questioning where Fedor had left off – with Brett Parker’s religious views.
Parker had professed his faith in God, but Campbell suggested one of the issues in his troubled marriage was his disbelief in God. He said his wife had complained because he didn’t go to church in the fall because he had to take bets on NFL games.
Next, Campbell asked Parker why his 14-year-old daughter had been taken out of school to attend a trial in which she had listened to graphic descriptions of her mother’s gunshot wounds and testimony about both parents’ love affairs.
Parker said it was his daughter’s idea, and he appreciated her support.
“So you think it’s a good idea to bring Brooke in here to listen to all of this?” Campbell asked.
Parker also lashed out at prosecutors and investigators for taking his children to an interview with child psychologists and cops. He said he was led to believe the children were getting counseling but instead were interrogated.
“For y’all to do that to her a few days after the funeral? That is sick,” he said, referring to Brooke.
The trial will resume at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday with closing arguments from both sides.