TAMPA — On Dec. 7, 2007, in the living room of 910 W Sitka St., a bullet struck George Stewart, 24, in the heart and killed him. Late the next day, his wife and her lover were found in Valdosta, Ga.
The lover, Timothy Blackwelder, is on trial this week, charged with first-degree murder, burglary with assault and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The wife, Brittani Key Stewart, 22, was not charged.
Wednesday, the jury heard from Brittani Stewart and Blackwelder, who said they were the only people present when George Stewart died.
Each blamed the other.
Blackwelder, 25, said Brittani Stewart called him and said her husband had tried to force her to have sex.
She said Blackwelder came over unannounced.
He said he wanted to protect her because she was pregnant with his child.
She said she wasn't, though she had been pregnant by him three times before, resulting in two miscarriages and one abortion.
He said he knocked on the back door.
She said he banged.
He said he told the husband to leave and got cussed out.
She said, "George was trying to protect me." She was scared of Blackwelder. She hid.
Blackwelder said she knew he was there to pick her up. He drove her van around the block, then returned to find the husband outside on the phone.
She said her husband called 911. She heard scuffling at the front door. She found her husband backed up in the living room and Blackwelder in the front doorway with a gun.
He said she had taken his gun the night before, when he was suicidal over a planned abortion.
She said that meeting never happened.
He said, "She walked around him and came toward me. … That's when she lifted up the gun and shot him."
She said she heard Blackwelder cock the gun. Then, a pop. She saw the bullet shell hit the floor and her husband drop. Blackwelder pulled her by the arm and took her outside. She asked him, "Why'd you do this?"
He said he didn't offer the husband any aid because he wasn't near enough to see if George Stewart was bleeding or in pain, and he didn't know CPR. "You're going to tell me that everyone who gets shot in the chest is going to die?" he asked in court.
She said he made her get in the van. She left her twin toddlers in the house with their dying father. "I didn't want him to hurt the babies."
He said she directed him toward the interstate. "She asked me to help her, so I did," he said. "She might have been in the wrong, but I still loved her."
He said that in Georgia, they had sex in the van.
She said the sex wasn't her idea.
Today, jurors will decide which account they believe. Circuit Judge Robert Foster denied a request for a mistrial Wednesday that followed an outburst in court a day earlier over a 911 tape.
Prosecutor Jalal Harb played the recording again to poke holes in Blackwelder's story, noting that George Stewart used "he" several times on the 911 tape to describe the person with the gun.
" 'He,' not 'she,' correct?" Harb asked.
"I guess," Blackwelder said.
Then the sound of Stewart's screams and moans rang through the courtroom.
"Now what's he saying?" defendant Blackwelder asked, his voice tinged with sarcasm.
Harb paused. "He's dying."
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or