For years, Rebecca Heacock referred to Todd Brooks as "Uncle Todd."
And on Wednesday, the 18-year-old Thomson woman recalled some of the events leading up to how Mr. Brooks was shot to death when she testified as a defense witness in the murder trial of Michael Samuel Johnson in McDuffie County Superior Court.
"We were real close," testified Miss Heacock. Mr. Brooks affectionately called her "Baby."
Just minutes before Mr. Brooks was shot multiple times - later being pronounced dead at McDuffie Regional Medical Center in Thomson - Miss Heacock had actually sat in his lap riding in a pickup truck in search of a deer that Mr. Brooks' wife had hit near the Johnson residence earlier that same night - Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2006. The driver of the truck was Teddy Grimes, a longtime friend of Mr. Brooks.
They never found the deer. But they talked as they searched a field on the Johnson property. Mr. Johnson and his friend, Roger Sturkey, meanwhile, searched for the deer, too, while riding in a separate truck.
While riding in the truck, Mr. Brooks, according to Miss Heacock, asked her for her mother's telephone number and actually called her.
Miss Heacock's mother, Debra Heacock, confirmed during later defense testimony that Mr. Brooks did, in fact, call her. He asked her if she knew where her daughter was, Ms. Heacock remembered Mr. Brooks asking her.
In reply, Ms. Heacock said, "Probably some place she shouldn't be." Mr. Brooks expressed a desire to help and that he would take her daughter home. Ms. Heacock said she informed him that she would come over and pick her daughter up later, but that Mr. Brooks insisted on taking her home. "I told him that he could take her - that he had my permission," Ms. Heacock said.
Prior to a fight, which Miss Heacock described more like wrestling, and the subsequent shooting that followed, she admitted having become close friends with Mr. Johnson. Under cross-examination by District Attorney Dennis C. Sanders, Miss Heacock was asked what kind of relationship she had with Mr. Johnson, she first stated they were close friends. Mr. Sanders followed that question with "Were you lovers?"
Miss Heacock admitted that she and Mr. Johnson had a sexual relationship and that she had spent a few nights at his mobile home.
Since Mr. Johnson has been jailed on charges of murder and other related crimes, Miss Heacock sent him a 2 ½ page letter, according to testimony introduced by Mr. Hawk. The contents of that letter were not disclosed in court.
She also disputed earlier testimony from Mr. Grimes who said Mr. Johnson struck Mr. Brooks in the back of the head with the butt of his rifle after returning to his home where a verbal confrontation turned into a struggle involving the weapon. Miss Heacock contended that it was Mr. Johnson who was struck in the back of the head. After the shooting, Miss Heacock said she felt the back of "Mike's head" and that a bump had popped up.
"He (Mr. Brooks) hit Mike in the back of the head," Miss Heacock testified.
While being questioned by Mr. Sanders, she added, "I saw it, no question in my mind about Mike getting hit in the back of the head."
Testimony from Dr. Kenneth Brown, medical examiner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Augusta, indicated that during the autopsy he found no bruising on the head of Mr. Brooks.
When staying at Mr. Johnson's mobile home, Miss Heacock said she washed dishes, did laundry and vacuumed.
Miss Heacock said Mr. Brooks "was very surprised to see me. He called me Baby. It's good to see you."
She then broke into tears, Mr. Hawk fetching her some water in an attempt to console her on the witness stand so that she could complete her testimony.
"'You're too good to be out here,"' she recalled Mr. Brooks telling her. At the time, she said Mr. Brooks had been drinking and was holding a beer in his hand while talking to her in Mr. Johnson's home.
Miss Heacock said earlier that Mr. Johnson had informed Mr. Brooks that he was going to take her home and that Mr. Johnson replied, "'That's fine. That's up to her."' She said Mr. Brooks then made a statement that he was going to fight Mr. Johnson anyway.