A former Jerry Springer Show guest testified Friday he has no memory of watching the show that featured him and his ex-wife or of the hours during which she was slain.
Taking the stand in his defense, Ralf Panitz told jurors he spent most of July 24, 2000, drinking. He learned that his ex-wife, Nancy Campbell, was dead days later after he had left the state, he said.
"I was extremely in shock," Panitz said. "I could not believe what had happened."
Panitz, 42, is charged with first-degree murder in his former wife's death, and could get a life sentence if convicted. Campbell was found beaten and stomped to death the day the Springer show episode aired featuring her, her ex-husband and his new wife and their dysfunctional love triangle.
Panitz, appearing confident and relaxed on the stand, denied hurting his wife, but testified he doesn't remember much of what happened that afternoon until he woke up in a car being driven north on Interstate 95 by his wife Eleanor a day later.
The day began with the trio going to a court hearing on a restraining order Nancy Campbell sought to oust her ex-husband from the house they had shared. Although they had divorced more than a year earlier and Ralf Panitz remarried in March 2000, they frequently reunited only to break up again.
Prosecutors contend Campbell was killed by her ex-husband because he was infuriated that she had won a court order to boot him from the house. Under a brief cross-examination, Panitz denied he was that upset about being forced to move.
Instead, the person who was upset was his nephew, Markus Panitz, who also had come to live at the house, Ralf Panitz testified.
Defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger has hinted that Markus Panitz was the real killer, saying he hated Campbell and had an opportunity to commit the crime. Markus Panitz denied committing the crime in testimony earlier in the trial.
Panitz said they didn't learn of his ex-wife's death until Eleanor Panitz called her father, who told them a woman at the house had been slain and they were wanted. Panitz said he cried at the news of his ex-wife's death, adding he still had feelings for her.
The trial continues Monday.