Answering questions from his attorney, Jesse McCord described the week — the day — the seconds — leading up to the moment he stabbed his ex-wife to death, then drove her body to a school Dumpster and cleaned up the mess.
McCord said Banks belittled him, laughed at him and told him she was having sex with another man, then looked at a knife on the entertainment center of the home she had previously shared with McCord on Kyle Street in Bangs.
“I lost it. I snapped. Before I knew it, it was over,” McCord told a 35th District Court jury Monday as he gave his version of the Aug. 20, 2008, murder of Denise Banks, 59.
McCord, 46, pleaded guilty last week to Banks’ murder and has chosen to have a jury determine his punishment. The defense has argued that McCord committed the murder under the influence of “sudden passion arising from adequate cause.” If jurors agree with the sudden passion theory, his punishment would fall under the range of a second degree felony — two to 20 years.
The prosecution has argued that McCord planned Banks’ murder, even buying cleaning supplies ahead of time to clean up the blood, after years of controlling and abusing her.
If jurors reject the sudden passion argument, he faces a sentencing range of five to 99 years or life in prison.
“Do you stand by your plea of guilty in this case?” McCord’s attorney, Evan Jones, asked him.
“Yes I do,” McCord replied quietly — although, under cross-examination later by District Attorney Micheal Murray, McCord claimed that prosecution witnesses had come into court and lied about him.
Murray also challenged McCord for denying his involvement and showing no remorse when then-Sgt. Tony Aaron of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office and Texas Ranger Mike Parker interviewed him after Banks’ body was found in the landfill.
McCord and Banks had sometimes lived together since their 2004 divorce to split bills, McCord testified under Jones’ questioning.
A few days before the murder, Banks moved out of the Kyle Street house because the electricity was cut off.
McCord and Banks kept in touch, electric service was restored and Banks talked about moving back in, McCord testified.
On Aug. 20, he got home from work feeling ill and reclined on the couch. Someone came in, and McCord raised up. “It was my ex-wife,” he said.
Banks was in a good mood, but after she sat down and the two began talking, an argument ensued, McCord testified. “I can’t express it how a female would express it,” McCord said after Jones urged him to replicate the words and tones of voices.
Banks said they would never get back together, told him he was “nothing” and said she was having sex with a man McCord was already jealous of, McCord testified. She laughed and “looked at the knife like she was fixing to grab it,” McCord said.
“I grabbed the knife and that’s when I stabbed her two or three times. … I was in shock of what I had done.”
McCord said he wrapped her body in a blanket but didn’t know what to do. He described a lengthy scenario in which he tried to get his Ford Explorer running after the murder, dealt with ongoing mechanical problems and managed to drive to several locations including the post office and a store, where he bought cigarettes.
Around 9:30 p.m., McCord said, he drove her body to a Dumpster by a school and placed it inside the container, believing school employees would see it the next morning.
He said he never intended her body to be transported in a trash truck to the landfill, where it was mangled either in the truck or by a landfill dozer.
McCord said he was shocked when sheriff’s investigator Scott Bird showed up with two other lawmen at his home the next day. He said he had been planning to commit suicide that night.
McCord described growing up in a family of nine children in Jacksonville. He said he doesn’t know his father’s identity and never knew him. He joined the Army at age 17, and at age 18, was stationed in Germany. Agreeing that earlier prosecution testimony was accurate, McCord said he fell in with two other soldiers in the robbery of a Mercedes dealership and later robbed a fellow soldier.
He was dishonorably discharged and served three years in federal prison for the robberies, returned to Jacksonville and got in more trouble with the law. He said he was serving a 60-day sentence in a Florida jail and working as a trusty when he met Banks — whose last name at the time was Sterling. He said as a trusty, he was under Banks’ supervision and she gave him her phone number.
They married, and had a sometimes stormy, on-again, off-again relationship in Florida, Colorado, Georgia and Texas. His five felony convictions and seven misdemeanor convictions included domestic violence against Banks, according to testimony.
In a lengthy cross-examination, Murray questioned McCord about his violent past and lengthy criminal record.
“You were a participant in using a knife to rob a Mercedes dealership, correct?” Murray asked, referring to the trio of soldiers who pulled the robbery in Germany.
“Yes,” McCord responded.
Several more past offenses were presented to the jury, ranging from family violence battery to resisting an officer with violence. A stipulation, signed by McCord, was offered regarding a 1991 charge, in which McCord was arrested in Denver, Colo., for “striking Denise about the face and elsewhere” and dragging her around a parking lot.
“I know I signed that stipulation, but part of that is not true,” McCord said. “I did not drag her around like it says.”
A Florida grand theft charge was also discussed, where McCord was sentenced to “12 and 12” — 12 months in prison and 12 months probation.
“I bought some property, but didn’t know it was stolen at the time,” McCord said.
After further questioning from Murray, McCord revealed he had purchased stolen jewelry.
McCord stated that testimony offered by many of the witnesses were fabrications.
Laughing after each time Murray would remind McCord of specific testimony, McCord would say, “..that is untrue sir.”
Raising questions about the day of the murder, Murray asked McCord how the knife used came into play.
“She acted like she was gonna reach for the knife, but I grabbed it and stabbed her,” McCord said.
“Where did you stab her?” Murray asked.
“It happened so quick,” McCord responded. “I have no idea.”
When Murray asked McCord what Banks’ last words were, McCord said, “My mind was not functioning good. I don’t recall.”
McCord said after he wrapped Banks’ body in a blanket and some plastic he retrieved “from the back” that he moved her to the bedroom, relocated Banks’ vehicle around the corner and when he returned to the home, decided to leave again.
“I couldn’t stay there after what had just happened,” McCord said, stating he walked to the city park.
That same evening, while Banks’ body remained in the bedroom of the home, McCord testified that he also went to the store, the post office, suffered vehicle problems, and smoked marijuana with an acquaintance.
“That ‘J’ (joint) didn’t do nothin’ for me,” McCord said.
Once at home, McCord began to clean and remove a portion of bloody carpet with a utility knife, the knife that was later found by investigators. McCord said he replaced the bloody portion he removed with a piece of carpet located under some furniture.
“Where is the knife that was used to kill your (ex) wife?” Murray asked.
“In the landfill,” McCord said.
“What Dumpster did you put it in?” Murray asked.
“I don’t recall sir. I went to two Dumpsters. The one at the (elementary) school and I don’t recall the other one. It was at the end of a dead end street,” McCord replied.
McCord said he had to “ease” Banks’ body into the Dumpster.
“It was difficult,” McCord said.
Murray asked McCord if he wanted Banks’ body to be found at the school.
“I panicked,” McCord said. “I was scared and didn’t know where to go. I was expecting somebody at the school to find the body.”
“How is it you came to put (Banks) in the trash in the first place?” Murray asked.
“Sir, I was scared and didn’t know what to do,” McCord said.
“Why did you put the knife in one Dumpster and Denise in another?” Murray asked.
“Distance,” McCord replied.
Questioning why McCord tried to “explain everything away” when interviewed by then-sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Aaron, McCord said, “I was in denial and couldn’t trust anyone.”
Near the end of the cross-examination, McCord said, “I am sorry for what I have done. It has eaten me up every day since I’ve been locked up. It has been haunting me for the last 10 months.”
After Murray concluded his cross-examination, Jones called Wesley Watson, a Gideon who had previously spent time with McCord since his incarceration.
Watson said that McCord admitted to the murder and that he had shown remorse during their dealings.
The proceedings came to an end at 5 p.m., which ended Watson’s testimony, who will be first on the stand this morning.