KNOXVILLE - An East Tennessee woman who has twice stood trial on charges of killing her second husband is back in court in Knox County.
Raynella Leath is charged in Knox County Criminal Court with shooting her second husband, David Leath, to death in 2003. Authorities say it was staged as a suicide. Three shots were fired at the scene.
This marks the third time that Leath will go on trial for the alleged murder. The first trial ended in a hung jury, and she was convicted in the second trial.
However, she was granted a third trial because the judge found that the second trial had been tainted by the conduct of Judge Richard Baumgartner, who later pleaded guilty to official misconduct and acknowledged having a drug problem.
The jury was seated on Tuesday, and testimony began on Wednesday.
Leath pleaded not guilty to the reading of the indictment against her. Opening statements and testimony from five witnesses followed.
During prosecutors' opening statements, the state presented graphic photographs of Leath's husband David lying dead in bed with a six-round handgun by his side.
Prosecutors claim three rounds fired and struck various objects in the room, including one deadly hit to David's forehead from close range. They say there were no signs of forced entry, no signs of struggle, and no one else at the house at the time but Raynella.
But Raynella's defense attorney claims David suffered from dementia and was often frustrated and irritable from his deteriorating cognitive abilities. During opening statements, the defense claimed multiple-shot suicides are not uncommon, and reiterated that patients with dementia are at high risk for suicide.
David's daughter Cindy Wilkerson was one of several who took the stand on Tuesday. She said she was unaware of her father having dementia, and said David was alert in the days leading up to his death.
Wilkerson testified Raynella and David had gotten into an argument over a tractor just a few days before his death. In response, she claimed Raynella told her she "was getting tired of this," and she "was going to show him".
Prosecutors also called Captain David Amburn with the Knox County Sheriff's Department to the stand.
Capt. Amburn testified Raynella was lying on the grass of her yard when he responded to the shooting call.
"She said, 'Help him! Somebody shot him, down the hallway to the left,' " he recalled.
Amburn said he entered the home to find David dead on the bed with the gun by his side.
He also testified to finding a bottle of prescription drugs inside a car on the property, although upon cross-examination he admitted he had not previously noted that he'd encountered any drugs that could have rendered David in an altered state in earlier reports.
When the defense began presenting their case on Monday, they called witnesses to testify that Leath could have killed himself.
If convicted, Raynella could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Leath was also previously charged with the murder of her first husband, Knox County District Attorney Ed Dossett, back in 1992.
Those charges later were dropped. David Leath and Ed Dossett were close friends.
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