FORT WORTH, Texas – Jurors saw pictures of the twisted, bruised and bloody body of a homeless man Monday as a former nurse's aide went on trial on charges she hit him with her car, drove home with his body lodged grotesquely in the windshield and left him to die in her garage.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the murder case both said Chante Jawan Mallard (search), 27, smoked pot, took Ecstasy (search) and drank heavily in the hours before she hit Gregory Biggs on a highway in the early hours of Oct. 26, 2001. The defense doesn't dispute what happened, but says it was an accident, not murder.
Defense attorney Jeff Kearney said Mallard was just one exit from her home, so she kept driving with "a body entirely in her car, the head in the floorboard, legs going in directions that no one thought humanly possible. You can't imagine."
Mallard faces life in prison if convicted. She pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, tampering with evidence (search), before attorneys began opening statements on the murder charge. The tampering charge could lead to a sentence of two to 10 years.
When the images of Biggs' mangled body were shown on a large screen in the courtroom Monday, Mallard looked down, and some jurors looked away. Biggs' relatives were not in the room when the photos were displayed.
Although Mallard had taken drugs, prosecutor Christy Jack said she could have stopped at a nearby fire or police station or called an ambulance after she hit Biggs.
She said Mallard stopped briefly and tried to get Biggs off her car, but when she couldn't, she drove about a mile to her home. Mallard then called one of her friends to pick her up, Jack said.
The friend, Titilisee Fry, testified that she told Mallard to call 911. "Chante refused because she didn't want her parents to know what she'd done and didn't want to go to jail," Jack said.
Kearney said after Mallard pulled into her garage and lowered the door, she sat in the car and cried, repeatedly apologizing to Biggs, who was moaning.
When Fry arrived at the house, Mallard was hysterical and "was blabbing, 'Lord, I'm sorry. What do I do? Lord, I'm sorry. It was an accident. What do I do?"' Kearney said.
Fry said she argued with Mallard when her friend refused to call for help. "I told her, 'I'm leaving. I don't want anything to do with this at all."'
Biggs, 37, a former bricklayer who had been living in a homeless shelter, was found dead the next day, his body dumped in a park.
Kearney said another of Mallard's friends, Clete Jackson, came up with the idea of dumping Biggs' body in the Park.
Jackson and his cousin, Herbert Cleveland, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence. Jackson received a 10-year sentence; Cleveland got nine years. As part of plea agreements, they were to testify at Mallard's trial.