An El Paso County woman took the stand at a murder trial Wednesday and described the moment a roommate entered her bedroom and fatally shot her fiance — claiming it was to protect her.
Barbara “Barbie” Bennett said she and the victim, Daniel Hunt, had argued before the July 31 shooting but made up and were hugging when Daniel Gray came in with a .40-caliber pistol.
Gray, 40, later told authorities he saw her being beaten and feared for her life. But Bennett said she wasn’t in danger and didn’t need his help.
“(Hunt) was consoling me, comforting me, encouraging me,” she tearfully recounted.
Her testimony came as Gray went on trial for second-degree murder, accused of inventing details to cover what authorities described as a rash shooting lacking legal justification.
Hunt’s killing was the second deadly shooting in the same home east of Colorado Springs in less than two years. Gray wasn’t charged after fatally shooting 41-year-old Jack Cole in the same house Sept. 5, 2017. A fellow resident told The Gazette that Gray claimed self-defense in that case, too, saying Cole had tried to stab and strangle him.
The home at 3903 Shining Star Drive is owned by Gray’s parents. It’s in a neighborhood off Bradley Road southeast of the Colorado Springs Airport.
The 2017 shooting wasn’t mentioned during opening statements, though jurors are expected to learn about it as the trial unfolds.
Also missing from trial was an allegation by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office that Gray was “high on methamphetamine” during the shooting, as a detective stated in an arrest affidavit. Fourth Judicial District Judge Robert Lowrey barred the claim, ruling that evidence for the claim wasn’t strong enough to overcome the potential to prejudice the jury against Gray.
Gray’s attorney, public defender Amanda Philipps, said Gray had intervened after hearing shouting from their room upstairs, warning Hunt to “take a walk” and calm down.
Later, after the yelling continued, Gray went upstairs a second time and entered the bedroom to see Bennett on the floor, “crouching” and “cowering,” as Hunt stood over her, she said.
Shooting Hunt was “the only thing” that her client believed could save Bennett, Philipps said.
“This happens in a moment,” Philipps told the panel. “He doesn’t have time to make alternate decisions, or alternate plans.”
Prosecutor Jimmy Litle said Gray offered shifting explanations for why he resorted to deadly force, which “unraveled” under questioning.
In a videotaped interview with an El Paso County sheriff’s deputy after his arrest, Gray said he witnessed Hunt “pounding” Bennett with a dozen blows — a beating so severe he thought her life was in jeopardy. He later admitted he didn’t witness an assault. Bennett had no bruises on her body and her clothing wasn’t ripped, authorities say.
Litle said Gray also claimed that Hunt had charged him, which Bennett disputes.
Litle told the panel: “We’re going to ask you to do what (Gray) failed to do. We’re going to ask you to take a breath. We’re going to ask you to use your common sense.”
In her testimony, Bennett said she had her back turned to the door when Gray entered. She heard him make a “guttural” sound, and saw her fiance react in surprise before saying, “No!”
She said Hunt moved her to the side as shots were fired, then collapsed.
Under cross-examination, Bennett admitted that Hunt had been yelling and referred to her in crude terms as they quarreled.
Bennett said her dispute with Hunt began when she discovered a text message on his phone from another woman and suspected infidelity. Hunt reacted in anger when she asked about it, denying that he’d had an affair and accusing her of not trusting him, she said.
Bennett and Hunt had been living in the home with Gray for at least seven months, Bennett testified.