The murder trial of Thomas Francis, for the alleged 2006 shooting of his wife Denise Michele "Shelly" Francis, began Tuesday as jurors heard a chilling call for help to 911 and graphic medical and forensic testimony from experts.
Francis, 63, dressed in a dark blue suit and yellow tie, shuffled into the courtroom and spent most of the trial looking ahead quietly during the testimonies.
Two men and two women sat behind him in the pews. Seven people, including Shelly's mother, sat behind the prosecutor's table, having to leave at times during the presentation of particularly graphic evidence.
The jury, comprised of six men and eight women, heard tape from some of the final moments of Shelly Francis's life as she placed a call to 911 shortly before deputies discovered her body around 8 a.m. Oct. 31, 2006 at 15 Rutherford Place.
Shelly's voice rang out eerily over the courtroom as the recording played.
"I've been shot," she said, in a shaken voice.
The 911 dispatcher asks her to stay on the phone, but the line goes dead, replaced by a busy signal.
The phone rings and rings as the dispatcher tries to call back. Finally, on the third call-back attempt, a man picks up.
The dispatcher asks, "What's going on?"
He tells her he shot his wife. There's a pause.
"You shot your wife?" the dispatcher inquires. "Yes ma'am," he replies.
The man, identified as "Tommy," reports that the gun is unloaded on the couch and his wife is on the bedroom floor, not breathing. He is instructed to go out of the front door.
Outside, Newton County Sheriff's Office deputies took him into custody as he walked down the front porch steps. Inside, investigators and deputies found Shelly's body on the floor of the bathroom of the master bedroom, with an overturned vanity stool and a knife at the entrance of the bathroom.
NCSO Investigator Paul Gunter testified that he allowed Thomas to make a call on his cell phone to his son about caring for the dogs, and then Thomas made one more call where Gunter overheard him telling his brother-in-law, Greg Moore, that he shot his wife.
Moore, who is married to Shelly's sister, recounted the call.
"He said, 'Is (Shelly's mother) close by? Well, I shot Shelly. I had no choice, she came at me with a knife.' I said, 'That's not funny.' And he said, 'I'm serious.'"
Moore also talked with Francis, a one-time deputy, a few weeks later at the jail. During the talk, Thomas said he and his wife had gotten into a fight the night before and that he would do "whatever it took to get out of there."
"I hate what happened, for both sides," Moore said.
Under questioning from defense attorney, David LaMalva, Moore also described disagreements he had with Shelly Francis and that he had even called the NCSO to arrest her for making harassing phone calls.
Dr. Eric Eason, a medical examiner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations who performed the autopsy on Shelly's body, said the victim had suffered three gunshot wounds - one to the torso, one across the mouth that dislocated several teeth, and one to the back of the head. He also described a bruise on her left thigh and right forearm, but no defensive injuries.
The mouth wound was not incapacitating and the torso wound was not instantly lethal, he said. But the shot to the head, which went through several lobes and the brain stem, would have made it impossible to do something like make a call to 911, much less talk.
"The phone call would have to be made before she was shot," Eason said offering his opinion of the incident.
GBI Special Agent Todd Crosby, a crime scene specialist, described the extensive examination of blood spatter patterns that led him to conclude the victim had been shot in the mouth about 44 inches from the ground, or about where her head would have been if she was sitting on the vanity stool in the bathroom.
Assistant District Attorney Melanie McCrorey introduced numerous photographs of the crime scene, including a shot of the blood-stained bathroom counter with a cup of coffee and a dislodged tooth and tissue.
No usable fingerprints were found on the Glock 9mm gun, magazine or blood smeared phone - not unusual as people grow older and have fewer secretions, he explained. He said the phone cord also appeared to have been yanked out of the wall. The knife had no blood or fingerprints on it, although there was blood underneath where it lay on the carpet.
His opinion was that the knife was placed there after the incident, he said.
The trial continues at Newton County Superior Court Wednesday with video footage of investigators' interviews with Thomas Francis.