Brown County Sheriff’s investigator Scott Bird joked with Jessie McCord about McCord’s large dog, a Rotweiller-cross named Champagne, and made small talk about family matters at McCord’s home on Aug. 21, 2008.

Once, Bird apologized for accidentally referring to McCord as “John.”

But mostly, the conversation was serious as Bird, accompanied by two other lawmen, questioned McCord about the whereabouts of McCord’s ex-wife, Denise Banks.

Jurors in 35th District Court heard a recording Bird made of the conversation he had with McCord at the Bangs home where McCord and Banks had shared, despite their 2004 divorce, so they could split bills.

McCord, 46, pleaded guilty Monday to the Aug. 20, 2008, murder of Banks, 59. Jurors are hearing punishment testimony and will determine his sentence.

The defense is arguing that McCord stabbed Banks to death in a moment of “sudden passion” after she belittled him, told him she was having sex with another man and reached for a knife. The prosecution contends that McCord planned Banks’ murder after years of controlling and abusing her.

Bird told jurors Banks’ mangled remains were found Aug. 21 in the Brownwood landfill, and investigators learned that a missing persons report had been filed in Bangs on Banks. Bird, then-sheriff’s Capt. Ellis Johnson and Bangs officer Steve Vail went to McCord’s home on Kyle Street.

Bird didn’t tell McCord that a body had been found in the landfill. He told them lawmen were looking for Banks, and McCord said she wasn’t there. He invited the lawmen inside to look for her.

Lawmen obtained a search warrant for the Kyle Street home and returned later that day, and found a utility knife with a bloody blade under the couch in the living room, Bird testified.

Lawmen also found some of McCord’s blood-stained clothing in a bag, and found evidence that someone had cleaned blood from several areas of the home.

Johnson asked a shaken, trembling McCord why he was nervous, and McCord said he thought he was about to be arrested on some Bangs tickets, Bird said. McCord calmed down toward the end of the lawmen’s visit, Bird testified.

The prosecution then played jurors a recording of Bird’s conversation with McCord. Bird said he made the recording with a small recorder in his pocket.

“How you doin’? Are you Jessie?” Bird asked as the recording began. As McCord’s dog barked in the background, Bird and McCord had a friendly conversation. Bird asked McCord to do something with the dog, and he put the animal in the house.

“My wife used to live here. She moved out,” McCord told Bird. He said he’d spoken with her the day before on the phone.

McCord said the two were divorced in 2004. They had lived in Brownwood, then Banks moved into the house on Kyle Street and invited McCord to move in later, McCord told Bird. He said the two had lived together off-and-on after the divorce to split bills.

But Banks had moved out a week earlier after the electricity was shut off, and McCord anticipated she would come home “eventually.”

“How come you’re shakin’ so bad?” Johnson asked McCord. After McCord explained his fear about his tickets, Bird said, “I don’t care about any tickets, man.”

As the conversation continued, a television sitcom could be heard in the background, with dialogue punctuated by frequent laughter from a live audience. It was unclear what show was on the television. At one point, an actor said, “you do not have to answer that,” followed by gales of laughter.

A train — its horn blaring in long, loud bursts — rumbled by on nearby tracks.

“Why do you get nervous talkin’ to the po-leece, man?” one of the lawmen asked McCord in another reference to his demeanor. The lawman asked McCord if he’d been arrested before, and he answered affirmatively.

After jurors heard the recording, Bird testified about other evidence lawmen had seized, including McCord’s Bible, which was open on a coffee table to a chapter in Psalms. Bird did not ascribe any significance to the open passage — Chapter 29, verses 1-32. The Bible contained an Aug. 17, 2008, church bulletin from Rocky Creek Baptist Church, Bird testified.

Lawmen have a copy of a surveillance tape showing McCord buying cleaning supplies on Aug. 16 in the Dollar General Store in Bangs, Bird said. Lawmen also have a copy of a surveillance tape showing Banks in the Food Plaza in Bangs at 4 p.m. on Aug. 20 — the day she was killed — buying a fountain drink and candy, Bird testified.