PLATTSBURGH Anthony Pavone said he felt like he was dreaming when he killed his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.
"None of it was real," Pavone said through tears Tuesday.
"I was asleep somewhere; I was dreaming it. It couldn't be happening."
ON THE DOORSTEP
On the stand in his own defense for the Jan. 31, 2010, deaths of Patricia Howard and Timothy Carter, Pavone struggled to specifically recall the early morning deaths.
He said he arrived at Carter's Dannemora home looking for Howard, who was on her second date with Carter, celebrating her birthday.
Pavone said Howard answered Carter's door in a robe and "started apologizing" for hurting him and not telling him she was on a date and apparently moving on from their recently failed nine-year relationship.
"I couldn't see the house, at that point. I was just looking at her, nothing else. I couldn't even feel the cold anymore," Pavone said.
"I just kept saying that I needed her."
'IN DAILY CONTACT'
During questioning by his attorney, John Carney, Pavone recalled that he then asked Howard if he could sleep at Carter's home so he could be "close to her" and admitted that it was a bizarre request.
Pavone repeatedly had difficulty answering Carney's questioning in a straightforward manner and often broke down in tears as he struggled to explain himself.
He was on the stand for nearly six hours Tuesday as he recalled the shootings and his relationship with Howard, saying it wasn't unusual for them to break up but that they never dated other people during their brief times apart.
While he and Howard were not dating at the time of her death, Pavone said, they were still in contact and were intimate on the morning of her birthday, though District Attorney Andrew Wylie later noted that no one could corroborate that alleged contact.
GUN IN WAISTBAND
Pavone said he went to Carter's home looking for Howard, nervous that she was, in fact, on a date and had a .357-caliber revolver with him because he had recently begun carrying it for protection.
"It was in my waistband inside my jumpsuit. That's where I always carry it," Pavone said, explaining to jurors that he did so after having a problem with a former tenant, who had had an armed standoff with police, and that he feared for his life.
Pavone maintained that he never intended or wanted to shoot Howard and Carter.
LEFT AND RETURNED
During his lengthy and rambling testimony, which frequently jumped from one topic to another, Pavone said he hadn't slept in days as he worried about Howard and tried to fix a major sewage problem at apartments he owned in Plattsburgh.
He said he spent several hours looking for Howard the evening of the shootings and ultimately decided to go to Carter's, whom he didn't know, to see if she was there.
"I needed her," Pavone said, claiming that he had become increasingly distraught and suicidal in days leading up to that decision.
After going door to door at Carter's apartment building, Pavone said, he finally wound up at Carter's home and knocked on the door until Howard answered.
He said he pleaded to talk with her and then left when she said they could discuss everything some other time.
Pavone said he drove only about 200 feet before he returned, unable to leave her and considering whether to sleep in his truck or on Carter's porch.
He said he knocked on the door again, spoke with Howard and "lost it" when she said something to the effect of, in his words: "What's the matter with you? You don't get it? What do I have to do, (expletive) him in front of you?"
At some point in those seconds, according to Pavone, Carter called out from inside the home and "told me he had a gun.
"I pulled my revolver when he said he had a gun. It was a reaction."
Pavone, a former Marine sergeant, had difficulty recalling the specifics of what happened in the ensuing few minutes but said he remembered that the door window shattered and made him think that Carter was shooting at him.
"Now I look back at it, I know it was me (shooting through the window). The window exploded, and it stunned me ... Everything was so slow. I stuck my revolver in the door in fired in that (Carter's) direction.
"I shot at the figure (Carter) because I thought he had discharged (a weapon) at me."
While Carter had guns inside his home, none were found near his body or outside the cabinet where they were stored.
"I wasn't thinking what was right or wrong," Pavone said. "I felt not there, not in reality ... like it wasn't happening."
During a sometimes heated and confrontational cross-examination by Wylie, Pavone did not dispute killing the couple but said he didn't remember the shootings as prior prosecution testimony and forensics proof showed they happened.
Forced to look at the alleged murder weapon several times during questioning by Wylie, Pavone seemed reluctant to answer questions about specific details regarding how Howard and Carter were killed.
Though Pavone said he didn't remember, Wylie pointed out that Carter was shot first in the back and then, fatally, when he was defenseless on the floor.
Howard, Wylie said, was shot in the chest at close range and then died when Pavone apparently shot her in the head as she knelt or lay on the floor.
Pavone is arguing that he acted out of extreme emotional disturbance, which could net him a lesser conviction and sentence, but Wylie asserted that Pavone's memory was spotty only in "the portions that help your EED defense."
Pavone denied those assertions and said he has continued to try to accurately recall the events of that night.
Wylie felt that, based on Pavone's actions that night, he was stalking Howard and angry she was moving on with another man, which Pavone denied.
When asked if he was jealous, Pavone said, "I was definitely jealous of her."
He said he returned to Carter's home that night because "I was afraid of myself if I went home."
He then broke down on the stand, saying Howard "should've told me" she was moving on.
"I was feeling all kinds of emotions," he said.
During Wylie's questioning, Pavone said he didn't remember pulling the trigger and at one point said it may have also discharged accidentally.
Before Pavone took the stand, Carney called three other witnesses to testify on his behalf: long-time friend Carla Stout; Pavone's ex-wife, Sharon Pavone; and his daughter, Angela Pavone.
All three said Mr. Pavone was never violent or abusive with them. Wylie later noted that Mr. Pavone is not accused of being violent with anyone but the two people he killed. The earlier defense witnesses also discussed a supposed change in behavior exhibited by Mr. Pavone, a former correction sergeant, after he was assaulted by an inmate in 2006 at Clinton Correctional Facility.
Pavone detailed the assault and said it left him depressed and led to his forced retirement after 26 years on the job.
The witnesses said the assault eventually caused Pavone to become paranoid and isolated, ultimately placed on prescribed medications for related mental issues.
"It was subtle, at first," Sharon Pavone said in court. "But I kept noticing changes in him over time."
She said Mr. Pavone had also become a compulsive gambler in recent years.
Mr. Pavone's testimony prompted many in the courtroom to cry, including his family members and those of Howard and Carter.
He lashed out at his attorney and Wylie, saying they weren't asking the right questions and that the jury wasn't getting the whole story.
Mr. Pavone was again in tears by the end of the court session when Judge Patrick McGill frequently had to cut off his testimony, citing it as inappropriate and out of line.
He then returned to the defense table and bowed his head, visibly distraught.
The trial will not resume until Friday, when a defense psychologist is expected to take the stand.