McLean says rifle went off after struggle with victim

McLean says rifle went off after struggle with victim

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"I mean, I love who she was," Eric McLean told the court of his now ex-wife, Erin, during his testimony. "I mean, I love who she was," Eric McLean told the court of his now ex-wife, Erin, during his testimony.

By HANA KIM
Good Morning Tennessee Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- During testimony in his own defense Tuesday, Eric McLean testified the rifle he used to shoot and kill his wife's teen lover in March 2007 went off after a struggle between them.

As he began his testimony, Eric admitted he still loves his ex-wife, Erin. "I mean, I love who she was." He was granted a divorce from her in February.

Eric said Erin tutored her former West High School student, Sean Powell, 18, at home and he began to notice Powell was calling their home.

Erin later began staying up drinking whiskey in the bathtub at night and talking on the phone, Eric testified.

At a New Year's Eve party, Erin told their friends she thought their should be a 10 year time limit on marriage, Eric said. At the time, they had been married for 10 years. Eric said he felt "insulted" because "she did it on purpose."

At midnight on New Year's, Eric said Erin was using his cell phone to call Powell, but when they got home, he said he didn't do anything. "I couldn't argue with her," he said. "She would just start yelling."

Eric said at the end of January 2007, Erin admitted to him she was having an affair with Powell, but she was drunk at the time. He said again he didn't argue with her about it.

At Erin's request, Eric asked his parents if Powell could stay with them after Powell had been kicked out of other places. He said they declined.

Eric also described walking in on Erin and Powell once when they were having sex. He said they knew he was there, but they didn't stop.

When Poston asked Eric why he didn't do anything, he said, "I didn't want to hurt anyone else. I just wanted to die."

Eric denied that he and Erin had an open marriage.

Eric said he took a rifle from his parents' home about two weeks before the shooting because he was thinking of killing himself. He said he hid the rifle in the laundry room of his home because he was the only one who went down there.

Eric said after Erin got drunk and attacked their son, he filled out paperwork for an order of protection against her, but he withdrew it the next day.

When Poston asked why he withdrew the order, Eric said he was afraid Erin would stop talking to him.

He said he did move their sons to his parents' house, at the suggestion of a Family Justice Center worker.

Eric even described an incident when Powell wound up spending the night on he and Erin's couch. He said he told Erin he didn't want Powell there, but she said if he agreed, she'd sleep in the bed with him.

On the night of the fatal shooting, Eric testified that when Powell showed up at the McLean's house, he didn't want him there.

Eric McLean said made fun of him, claiming she didn't want the children to grow up to be like him.

Erin and Powell went to the car, Eric said, but she came back to the house for something.

Eric said he got the rifle, intending to scare Powell with it. But as he stood at the passenger door of the car, pointing the rifle Powell grabbed the barrel.

When he pulled back, Eric said Powell let go and the rifle went off. Through tears, Eric said, "I'm sorry. I couldn't believe it."

During the state's cross examination, Eric refused to look at pictures of Powell after he'd been shot.

Assistant District Attorney General Bill Crabtree also asked Eric if it was true that he, Erin and Powell all got in bed together naked, but when he couldn't participate in a make out session, he left. He disagreed.

Eric said the last time he saw his two sons was on March 9, 2007.

Friend describes encounter with wife, victim

A close friend of Eric's, Scott Murrin, testified first Tuesday. He told the court he and Eric were at the Corner Lounge listening to music one night when Erin, came in arm in arm with Powell.

Murrin said Erin had her tongue in Powell's ear at times and kept whispering to him. He also described Erin as "extremely intoxicated."

Murrin said Eric didn't do anything in response, only looked depressed and drank his beer.

When the music was over, Murrin said Eric, Erin and Powell all left together.

Bomb threat cleared courtroom

The defense began presenting its case to the jury after a two hour delay for a bomb threat next door.

The threat was for the old courthouse building, next door to the City County Building where the McLean trial is being held. However, officials decided to clear both buildings as a precaution.

Defense attorney Bruce Poston told 6 News he had planned to present all the defense witnesses Tuesday, but the delay changed that.

Murder charge stays the same

Tuesday morning, Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz ruled that the murder charge remains the same against Eric McLean.

Judge Leibowitz denied a motion by Poston to downgrade the charge from first degree murder to second degree.

Poston argued the prosecution hadn't proven the murder of Powell was premeditated and contended Eric is overcharged.

However, Judge Leibowitz said there's evidence that Powell was surprised by the fatal rifle shot and that favors the state's case.  

There was discussion of barring the prosecution from calling Eric's ex-wife, Erin McLean, as a rebuttal witness but no ruling from the judge.

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