A man accused in the fatal beating of his ex-wife at her office in May took the stand in his murder trial this afternoon.
Brent Stephens, 39, is accused of striking his ex-wife at least 20 times with an aluminum baseball bat. He has filed paperwork notifying the court that he plans to use an insanity defense.
Mr. Stephens testified that he loved his ex-wife and wanted her back. Sometime before he beat her to death with an aluminum bat, he said that love died.
"I was sick with jealousy," Mr. Stephens said, staring straight ahead during much of his hour-long testimony. "Then that love turned to hate."
Mr. Stephens testified that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1997 when he said he checked into a drug rehabilitation center to break his methamphetamine addiction. Earlier this year, he lost his job and could no longer afford his prescribed medication, which he said totaled about $2,000 a month.
Mr. Stephens said a voice that felt like it was right behind told him to kill his wife, and then kill himself.
Denise Stephens divorced Mr. Stephens in September 2007 after a two-year separation, during which she told divorce court officials and her family that he tried to commit suicide and regularly accused her of having an affair.
Barbara Harrison, who worked in the same office building as Ms. Stephens, testified that on May 12 she noticed Mr. Stephens standing in a breezeway looking out toward the building's front entrance. About 10 minutes later, she said she heard screaming outside her office.
"The same man I saw earlier, he had a baseball bat and he was striking her in the head over and over again," Ms. Harrison said.
"I started screaming at him, 'Stop. Stop. You're killing her,'" Ms. Harrison said.
About an hour after the morning attack, police responded to a report that a man was straddling an overpass railing on the George Bush Turnpike in Carrollton. Police found Mr. Stephens and negotiated with him for about an hour before his arrest.
Ms. Stephens had been fearful of her ex-husband, according to an affidavit for a protective order, which a Collin County judge granted. She told officials that Mr. Stephens was a danger to her, their children and himself. The Stephenses have three young daughters.
Ms. Stephens described Mr. Stephens' bipolar disorder, a suicide attempt in 2006, how he rammed her car from behind with his car, and broke into her house to steal her phone bill in an attempt to see to whom she had been talking.
Ms. Stephens' boss, Dr. Edgar Nace, told The Dallas Morning News that he knew Mr. Stephens was upset about the divorce, but never expected violence.
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