Christa Gail Pike broke down in tears today as she listened to herself confess to killing Colleen Slemmer in 1995.
Pike's lawyers played the tape of her confession to Knoxville Police Department Investigator Randy York claiming she was going through mood swings and a distraught emotional state at the time.
York, now retired, said that's not the way he remembers it.
Pike was emotional at times, he said, but acting "very jovial and very cooperative" at times as well. "She was not at all combative," York testified.
Pike also sobs on the tape.
"Where in this statement was the jovial part," her lawyer, post-conviction defender Donald Dawson asked. "We have a woman who seems to be struggling with her composure."
"I don't detect any of that in here, and I don't think you do either," York said. "She never lost her composure. She was always able to keep talking."
On Jan. 12, 1995, Pike and fellow Job Corps students Tadaryl Shipp and Shadolla Peterson beat and slashed classmate Colleen Slemmer and carved a pentagram on her chest with a box-cutter before killing her at a remote corner of the University of Tennessee's agricultural campus. Pike and Slemmer had competed for Shipp's affection.
Pike was sentenced to death after a 1996 trial, a sentence she's appealing.
A police video shot a few hours after her initial confession shows a calm, dry-eyed, occasionally smiling Pike leading police through the crime scene, pointing out the spot where Slemmer died and miming the motion of killing her.
Testimony is expected to continue until at least 7 this evening.
Prominent Knoxville defense attorney Herbert S. Moncier is expected to testify that he advised Diana McCoy, a defense psychologist who interviewed Pike but never testified at the 1996 trial, that a previous relationship she had with lead prosecutor Bill Crabtree wasn't a conflict of interest.
McCoy testified today that she believes she could have helped convince jurors to spare Pike the death penalty had the defense allowed her to speak to her conclusions regarding Pike.
McCoy put together a three-volume report on Pike's background, including a history of childhood rejection and physical, sexual and drug abuse.
She discussed those findings at length today.
She said her interviews with Pike and those who knew her painted a portrait of a troubled, scared girl of above-average intelligence who would do anything to hang on to a relationship.
Pike reported sometimes she would suffer blackouts just before an angry or violent outburst, McCoy said.
"Once Christa gets mad, it's all over," a friend of Pike's told her.
Pike's current lawyers say that evidence might have saved her life, but Assistant District Attorney General Leland Price says none of McCoy's testimony - or anyone else's - could have overcome Pike's detailed confessions to Knoxville police.
"I read that transcript (of the 1996 sentencing hearing)," McCoy testified Wednesday. "It was so puny I could hardly describe it. After the hearing, I was in shock. Here's this woman sentenced to death, and I had done all this work for her."
Her former lawyers, Bill Talman and Julie Ann Martin Rice, testified earlier this week they didn't call McCoy to testify because her findings might shock the jury and didn't match another expert's diagnosis.
Slemmer's mother, May Martinez, appeared in court Wednesday seeking to take her daughter's skull and the piece of it that Pike kept as a souvenir home to Florida for burial.
Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz says she can't allow that because the skull and its shards remain evidence in the case while it's on appeal.
"It really hurts," Martinez said afterward. "I know my daughter's not going home with me. The only thing I really wanted was to get my daughter's body back."
The scene brought on an outburst of tears and apology from Pike, who's making a last bid to overturn her death sentence for the torture killing of Slemmer, 19.
"She kept saying, 'May, I'm sorry,' " Martinez said. "The skull was right there on the table in front of her, so she couldn't get away from it. I guess she couldn't take that. I feel sorry for her."
Regarding the psychologist's testimony, Pike's attorneys also said Wednesday they found out in the middle of the trial that she'd dated lead prosecutor Bill Crabtree.
McCoy said none of that's true. She said she dated Crabtree briefly about two years before the trial and told the defense team early in the case. She said Talman told her not to worry and that Rice joked at the thought of the couple's sex life.
"The day the guilty verdict came back, Bill Talman called me," McCoy testified. "He was in a total meltdown. He said Bill Crabtree was very upset because (the report) was all hearsay. He said, 'I can't have you testify.' "
The jury sentenced Pike to death the next day. She asked at one point to be executed but later revived her appeals.