HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Defense attorneys for a Huntsville man accused of killing his wife and son say he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, but prosecutors told the jury that he had no history of mental illness.
A jury of seven men and nine women (panel of 12 with four alternates) was seated Thursday afternoon at the Madison County courthouse. The prosecution and defense gave their opening statements and testimony got underway in the trial for Stephen “Marc” Stone, who is charged with capital murder in the deaths of his wife and young son nearly six years ago.
Investigators say Stone strangled his wife, Krista, and strangled and drowned the couple’s 7-year-old son, Zachary.
Huntsville police found the bodies inside the family’s home on Chicamauga Trail in south Huntsville on Feb. 24, 2013.
Krista was the mother of three children, including Zachary, a 2-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old daughter. Zachary was in first grade at Mountain Gap Elementary.
PROSECUTION’S OPENING STATEMENT
Tim Gann, Chief Trial Attorney for the Madison County District Attorney’s Office, began his opening statement explaining that the day before the murders, the Stone family made plans for Marc’s parents to come and visit.
That morning, between 5:30-6 a.m., Stone got up, wrote a note to say he was going for a drive and then left.
Krista was home with the children waiting on her in-laws. They got there and had a good time, but Marc was AWOL and didn’t take his cell phone.
Later in the evening, his parents left and around 8 p.m., Stone called his wife to check in.
He said he was in Montgomery coming home.
Around midnight, he arrived at the house and everyone was asleep.
“He comes in and gets in bed with his wife. Krista is not having it. She has spent all day there with his family and he disappeared for no reason. She’s mad and upset about what happened. She gets up out of the bed and they’re having a discussion about the events of the day,” Gann said.
They moved the discussion to the far end of the house to the TV room away from the other bedrooms.
“They sit on the couch and in the midst of their domestic dispute, it reaches a breaking point and he attacks her,” Gann told the jury. “He goes for her throat immediately, holds her down and chokes her and even puts his elbow into it.”
Gann said Krista was “fighting, clawing and scratching with everything she’s got and pleading for Jesus to help her.”
He stated that Stone crushed her neck and left her on the couch and then went into Zachary’s room, where he was asleep on his bed wearing dinosaur pajamas.
“He walks over to his child, covers his face and attacks him too. He goes right for his neck as well, and he chokes him, but he can’t quite kill him,” Gann said.
Stone stopped when Zachary started having convulsions. According to the prosecution, he let go of the boy, walked into the bathroom, and turned the water on in the tub while his son was convulsing.
“While drawing water, he grabs his son and plunges him into the water and holds him under. Zachary was alive when he hit the water. He fought, but a first grader is no match for a grown man. He died in that bathtub and Marc left him there floating while he went to deal with Krista’s body,” Gann said.
He told jurors that Stone put Krista in bed, and got Zachary, wrapped him up and put his body in the bed as well.
“That outlines the capital murder case. But that’s not the end of the story. The next morning when the girls wake up, he loads them into the car and takes them to Leeds where his parents live,” Gann explained.
He went to Walmart where he ran into an investigator with the Leeds Police Department. Stone asked him where closest police department was and then dropped his girls off at his parents’ house.
He walked into Leeds PD and told the staff that he had just killed his wife and son in Huntsville, Gann said.
Stone then told investigators what he did, gave them his home address and they called Huntsville police to go over to the house where they found the victims in a back bedroom.
Krista and Zachary were in bed next to one another covered up, Gann said.
Stone has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
That means the defense has to prove that he was suffering from a severe mental disease when he committed the murders to the point where he could not appreciate the nature of the wrongfulness of his actions and did not know right from wrong with clear and convincing evidence.
“Marc Stone had absolutely no history of mental illness,” Gann told the jury.
There was evidence their relationship was suffering, he added.
“There was a certain level of frustration building and dissatisfaction. evidence of pornography addiction and abuse. Krista was the leader of the family and out shined Marc in every way,” Gann stated.
“Motive is important and when you look at their relationship, there were troubles,” he went on say. “You’re going to see a man who was at the end of his rope, depressed and unhappy with his life.”
Investigators say Stone told them he had been depressed and that during the time of the murders, it was a “weak period.”
“Stone said something broke inside of him and after doing the killings he felt free,” according to Gann. “He murdered Krista and Zachary and knew exactly what he was doing while he was doing it.”
DEFENSE’S OPENING STATEMENT
Larry Marsili, Stone’s defense attorney, told members of the jury that they need to “put your head over your heart in this matter.”
He went on say that the case is different than most any other case that comes before a jury for trial because for the most part, “we would agree with 90-95 percent of what Mr. Gann told you.”
On that “fateful day” in February 2013, Marc had taken off and said he needed to go on a drive, Marsili told the jury.
He knew his parents were coming to visit and left his cell phone at home.
He contacted his wife to tell her that he was coming back.
“When he got back, he did the things that Mr. Gann told you about. There are minor differences about the way that it unfolded but the crux of the case is that he strangled his wife and then did the same thing to Zachary. And then after he started convulsing, he placed him in the tub. And he was still alive at that point and drowning was a contributor to his death,” Marsili said.
After all of that happened, Marc got the girls ready and went to Leeds.
He went to the police station and confessed.
“I want to be very clear. This case is not just about his wife. This case is not just about his 7 year old son. If that’s what the case was about, we wouldn’t have a trial,” Marsili stressed to the jury. “This is about what was going on in his mind at the time that this happened. That’s the part of the case that’s in dispute and that’s the part of the case we’re asking you to focus on.”
He acknowledged that mental illness cases can cause some skepticism.
“The evidence is going to be clear that Marc is not faking this illness,” Marsili stated. “It will show clearly and convincingly that Marc was unable to comprehend the harmfulness of those tragic events.”
He says three doctors did an evaluation on Stone and all came to the same conclusion that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.
“At the time this tragedy, suffering from a severe defect that made him unable to appreciate the criminality of his actions,” Marsili added.
Lt. Wilbur Griffin with the Leeds Police Department was first on the stand.
He is the officer who encountered Stone and his daughters in Walmart after the killings.
He says Stone stopped him and asked him where closest police department was located so he gave him directions.
He said the children were dressed as if they were going to church and Stone was just dressed casually, and he didn’t notice anything unusual about them.
Griffin paid for his items in Walmart and left the store.
About an hour later, he got a call to come to the police station and noticed that Stone was there.
He told Lt. Griffin that he would like to turn himself in.
Griffin thought at first that he was referring to a traffic citation.
He asked Stone what he did and said Stone replied: “I just killed my wife and my son.”
Griffin placed him in handcuffs and asked where it happened. Stone told him Huntsville and gave him the address.
“He said he left son and wife in the back bedroom with candles around,” Griffin testified.
Griffin called Huntsville police to provide them with the information and inquired about the little girls he saw with Stone in Walmart. Stone informed him that he left his daughters at his parents’ house so Griffin sent an officer over to the home to check on them.
He was calm, Griffon said about Stone, adding that Stone did not become agitated or hostile throughout their interactions.
Sgt. Glen Eaves, a longtime Huntsville Police officer, was called to testify next. He was the supervisor on duty on the south side of town when Leeds police called to tell them about Stone.
He told the jury that officers went to the family’s home, knocked on the door and no one answered.
So they went to the back of the house to make entry and when they got to the back bedroom, the door was locked.
They got it open and “saw a lady in bed with a child and they were covered up like they were going to sleep, and they were deceased,” Eaves said.
The officers pulled back and notified the chain of command, as well as the homicide and crime scene units.
They also told Leeds PD that they found the bodies and to keep Stone in custody until he could be transferred back to Huntsville.
The jury saw crime scene photos Thursday afternoon. They will see autopsy photos on Friday as the trial continues.
It’s expected to go into next week.