Jessie McCord pleaded guilty Monday in 35th District Court to the Aug. 20, 2008, murder of his ex-wife in Bangs. A jury will hear evidence and determine his punishment.
The defense is arguing that McCord stabbed to death Denise Banks, 59, in a moment of “sudden passion” after she told him he was “nothing” and said she’d been having sex with another man.
The state sharply disputes that account, contending that McCord has a violent past and had controlled and abused Banks for years, and planned her murder.
If the jury rejects the “sudden passion” argument, McCord will face conviction of a first degree felony and sentencing range of five to 99 years or life in prison, jurors were told. If jurors find that he acted in sudden passion, he will face a second degree conviction and a sentencing range of two to 20 years.
First Assistant District Attorney Sam Moss and defense attorney Evan Jones did not dispute the events of the day of Banks’ murder in their opening statements to jurors — that McCord killed Banks, from whom he had been divorced since 2004, in the home on Kyle Street they had shared until a few days before the murder.
“The defendant is a murderer,” Moss told jurors. He said although McCord has pleaded guilty, the state will present the “insurmountable” evidence McCord faced.
Banks’ body was found Aug. 21 at the Brownwood landfill, Moss told jurors, and law enforcement officials began backtracking to determine her identity and what had happened to her.
After Banks’ car was found abandoned in Bangs, lawmen went to the Kyle Street home and asked McCord to accompany them to the sheriff’s office, Moss said. He said jurors will hear recordings of McCord’s statements to lawmen and “see if there is any mention of sudden passion.”
Lawmen obtained a search warrant for the home and “what they found really painted a picture of what happened,” Moss told jurors.
He said lawmen found a bag with McCord’s clothes — and the clothes had Banks’ blood on them. In an investigation similar to the CSI television show, lawmen performed sophisticated tests to find evidence of Banks’ blood on the floor in the kitchen area — even though someone had done a pretty good job of cleaning it up, Moss said.
Lawmen also found that McCord had recently bought cleaning supplies, including supplies that can remove bloodstains, Moss said.
He said the defense will try to show that McCord snapped in a fit of rage because he found out Banks and another man had a “relationship,” Moss said. McCord and Banks were still friends despite the divorce, and McCord had known about the relationship for awhile, Moss said.
Jurors will hear evidence of McCord’s past that
includes thefts, burglaries and violence, and he has committed “acts of violence or threats of violence” while incarcerated in the Brown County Jail, Moss said.
“This was a premeditated murder that Jessie McCord committed against Denise Banks,” Moss said. “ … This is not an issue of sudden passion. This is an issue of control.”
Then it was Jones’ turn to address jurors. “Something snapped,” he said as he began telling jurors some of the major events of McCord’s and Banks’ lives, including McCord’s birth in 1962 when Banks was 15 years old.
McCord faced a difficult childhood growing up in a Jacksonville, Fla., housing project, Jones said, noting that when McCord was 5 in 1967, Banks was 20 — “out in the world and a grown woman.”
McCord joined the Army at age 18, and got in trouble in Germany when he fell in with some older soldiers who wanted to make some quick money, Jones told jurors. He served three years in the Leavenworth federal prison, then returned to Jacksonville, Jones said.
“He catches 60 days in County,” Jones said, referring to a jail where Banks was working in the kitchen. She passed her phone number to McCord, and after he was released, the two began seeing each other, Jones said.
Jones detailed a stormy, on-again, off-again relationship that included violence and drug abuse, and they got married. They lived in several states, and had a history of splitting up and reconciling, Jones said.
He told jurors he didn’t want to smear Banks but said jurors need to know she “casting the man out, reeling him in” repeatedly. Banks “chased him from pillar to post, all over the United States. … she tells him to get lost, she tells him to come back,” Jones said.
Banks ended up in Brown County, and McCord joined her, Jones said. They got divorced and lived separately, although a sexual relationship continued and Banks invited him to move in, Jones said, and they shared Banks’ home on Kyle Street in Bangs.
She moved out. McCord found out she was seeing another man, although she insisted she was going to Bible studies, Jones told jurors. On Aug. 20, Jones said, Banks came to the home, bringing food for McCord and the dog that lived there.
They began arguing, and “curse words are flying both ways … she says to Jessie, ‘Jessie, you’re no good, you’re nothing,’” Evans said. She then told McCord she was having sex with the other man and reached for a knife on the entertainment center, Jones said.
McCord “snapped,” grabbed the knife and stabbed her three times, Jones told jurors.