Saturday, 4 August 2007

Defense attorneys are asking for a new trial in a 12-year-old death penalty case.

Knoxville (WVLT) - Defense attorneys are asking for a new trial in a 12-year-old death penalty case.

Christa Gail Pike, now 31, is currently on death row.

Pike was convicted back in 1996 of the 1995 torture and slaying of 19-year-old Colleen Slemmer.

This is the beginning of a very long hearing.

Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz says she expects the petition for Pike's new trial to go through Wednesday of this week, and then they'll continue it in December, that's because the original attorneys involved in the trial won't be available until then.

Leibowitz heard several different testimonies Monday.

"At certain points she was responsible and just polite, but she went into rage, as well, not understanding,” Tiddell Shipp is describing his girlfriend 12 years ago, Christa Pike...Pike was 19 at the time. "She would snap off a lot more and quicker."

Shipp was with Pike on February 12, 1995, "Christa thought of a plan and made a plan to do something to Colleen."

That night, 19-year old Colleen Slemmer, the couple's fellow Job Corps training student, was tortured and murdered in Tyson Park.

"Colleen was laying on the ground and Christa was talking about cutting her and stuff,” Shipp says.

That's what Shipp told investigators days after the murder, but Monday he's changed his story about the pentagram he said Pike helped him carve in Slemmer's chest.

"I carved it,” he says. “Every last bit of it."

Shipp was sentenced to life in prison for Slemmer's murder, while Pike was put on death row. Twelve years later, Shipp tells the court he was mainly responsible for the murder and misinformed investigators. "I was drunk, I was tired, I wanted them to leave me alone."

Shipp even says he would've testified during the 1996 trial, if given the chance.

"I would've advised him not to testify,” says Chris Coffee, Shipp’s attorney.

Tyrone Comfort then took the stand, a former Job Corps student who says he was best friends with Pike and saw that Shipp abused and controlled her. "Anytime she had a voice to do something, he'd change it real quick."

Ex-girlfriend DeAndrea Gates says she was also controlled by Ship, but that's no excuse for what Pike did. "I don't believe an individual can make someone do something of that nature."

Gates has letters from Ship he sent her from prison after the murder, "It's basically a murder confession of what happened the night Colleen was murdered."

About a dozen witnesses for the defense alone are expected to eventually take the stand.

We'll be back in court tomorrow for day two of the testimonies.

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