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Ansley claims self-defense during murder trial

The fate of 72-year-old Helen Irene Ansley now rests in the hands of a jury following a 21/2-day murder trial this week in McDuffie County Superior Court in Thomson.

A jury of eight women and four men began deliberations Wednesday.

Mrs. Ansley is charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. She is accused in the Jan. 30, 2008, shooting death of her husband, 77-year-old Fred Ansley.

The case is being presided over by McDuffie County Superior Court Chief Judge Roger W. Dunaway, Jr. It is being prosecuted jointly by Assistant District Attorney Rindi Harbeson and Chief Assistant District Attorney Durwood Davis. The defendant is represented by Toombs Judicial Circuit Public Defender Harold Wallace III and Assistant Public Defender Sarah Meyers.

The shooting occurred about 6 p.m. and followed an afternoon of arguing between the couple who had been drinking beer and gin. Testimony in the trial, which began Monday, revealed that the argument between them was over Mrs. Ansley agreeing to loan one of her sons, Steve Chaney, $1,000. Mr. Ansley did not like the idea of his wife loaning the money to her son and shared those feelings with her on the day he was killed.

The shooting took place in the living room of the couple's small home on the 800 block of Whiteoak Road, just outside Thomson.

Mrs. Ansley took the stand in her own defense Tuesday.

Following heated words between each other, Mrs. Ansley said her husband pushed her and that Mr. Ansley had threatened to shoot her just moments earlier.

"He was reaching for it (a Ruger .22-caliber revolver)," Mrs. Ansley said. "But I got it. I had to shoot."

During an interview by Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Tony Williamson, she claimed it was never her intention to shoot her husband.

"I killed him; I didn't mean to," Mrs Ansley told Agent Williamson during a tape recorded interview which was played for jurors during Tuesday's testimony.

Mrs. Ansley told Agent Williamson and Special Agent Lauren Fritsz that she had asked her husband not to bother her.

"I said leave me alone; stay away from me," Mrs. Ansley recalled.

She said her husband replied, "You stupid -----------, I'm going to kill you."

Asked by Mr. Wallace if she honestly believed at the time of the shooting that she had to defend herself, Mrs. Ansley replied, "yes."

On the night of the shooting, Mrs. Ansley said she was convinced that her husband was going to shoot her, because he had threatened her several times.

"He said he was going to blow my brains out," Mrs. Ansley said.

The 23-year marriage was filled with "arguments, fussing and fighting," Mrs. Ansley told jurors.

During that time, she said she had been injured on numerous occasions. The more serious injuries were a broken collar bone and a broken ankle.

Mr. Wallace asked how she received the broken ankle. Mrs. Ansley replied, "He slammed the screen door on it."

The defendant said she was afraid of her husband when he was drinking.

Mrs. Ansley testified that Mr. Ansley had been drinking about a week before the shooting.

Asked by her attorney what she did when her husband began drinking, Mrs. Ansley said, "I just tried to stay out of his way."

Mrs. Ansley said she would go to her bedroom to avoid him, but about once a month he came into the room and poured water on her. She noted that such incidents upset her, "because I had to change my bed."

During cross examination of Mrs. Ansley by Mrs. Harbeson, the assistant district attorney pointed out that she never told GBI agents during the interview that her husband had pushed her on the night of the shooting.

Mrs. Ansley admitted that she and Mr. Ansley had argued over a $1,000 loan she had agreed to make to her son, Steve Chaney.

Mrs. Harbeson then asked about the shooting.

"I picked up the gun because he was going to kill me," Mrs. Ansley said. "I'd been wanting him to shut up for years."

Mrs. Harbeson reminded her that a bullet to the chest of her husband did it.

Dr. Douglas Payne, a licensed clinical psychologist, who was classified as an expert witness when he testified for the defense on Tuesday afternoon, said Mrs. Ansley suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as well as battered woman syndrome.

She met the criteria for both, the Martinez doctor said.

Web posted on Thursday, September 23, 2010

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