In court Tuesday, Tommy George Dooley pleaded not guilty to a charge of capital murder as attorneys from both sides questioned why he shot his wife six times as she sat inside her car in the driveway their Pecan Plantation home last year.
Day one of the LaVera Aiken Dooley murder trial centered not on who pulled the trigger but on what each side believes the evidence shows in terms of a motive for the murder.
A 911 audio tape played to all in the courtroom graphically recounted the sequence of events and murder of the victim as she spoke with a dispatcher and called for help from her 2014 Mercedes Benz on Feb. 12, 2015.
“He shot me!” screamed LaVera Dooley on the phone to the 911 dispatcher after the first bullet was fired by her then 51-year-old husband standing outside.
Tommy Dooley shot five more times into the car before putting the pistol down inside their Colonial Drive home, chugging three beers, calling 911 and surrendering without incident to the first officer on scene, according to a taped confession made by Dooley that was played in court. On the recording that was made in the Hood County Jail just hours after the incident, Hood County Investigator Robert Young asked the defendant “What made you stop shooting?”
“Because I ran out of bullets,” said Dooley, who repeatedly stated to Young he shot the victim because of the 911 call. But did he pull the trigger because he simply “snapped” as the defense claims, or is the prosecution correct with their assertion that Dooley tried to end the 911 call by shooting his wife?
Dooley told investigators his wife treated him “mean” throughout their contentious relationship.
The couple was contemplating divorce, according to a marriage counselor that testified Tuesday.
A precise determination of motive in the case could be the deciding factor as to whether Dooley gets life in prison without parole and a capital murder conviction, or something less.
Seeking a simple murder conviction, defense attorney Pamela Walker argued the state “overcharged” their case of capital murder against her client. “That’s where we have an issue.”
“This case is not a whodunit,” said Walker in opening statements. “It’s not going to be a Perry Mason moment where something miraculous is going to happen.”
The prosecution’s case hinges on their claim that Tommy Dooley murdered his wife because she was on the phone with 911 and acting as an informant reporting a domestic disturbance when she was gunned down. If so, Dooley is guilty of capital murder which comes with life in prison without parole, according to the prosecution.
“The evidence is going to show you that the defendant murdered LaVera on a count of her service of status as an informant that night,” said Assistant District Attorney Megan Chalifoux in her opening argument.
The jury, consisting of six men, two women and two alternates was chosen Monday.
The case resumes Wednesday in 355th Judicial District Court in Granbury.
Expected later this week are forensic experts who will examine the wounds caused by Dooley’s Rossi .38-calibre revolver used in the shooting.
Get the full story in Saturday’s printed edition of the Hood County News.
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