Ivelis Turell takes the stand in her own defense
TRENTON — A tearful Ivelis Turell took the stand yesterday to defend herself against murder charges by telling of life with two little boys and a boyfriend fascinated by a gun that ended up killing him.
“I was like, ‘Mike, I love you,’ ” she testified in a cracking voice to telling victim Mike Whitaker after she gunned him down with the 9mm Ruger in the bedroom of their Ferry Street home the night of March 30, 2007.
Seconds later she was downstairs, where the jammed gun went off as she banged it against the stove and, once it became unstuck, fired a shot that passed through her left neck and shoulder.
By then the fatally wounded Whitaker, 35, had come down the steps himself and was crying and apologizing to Turell, whom he had lived with for four years and sired two boys with.
Whitaker hugged her, Turell said, and “we both fell to the floor,” where investigators later found a large splotch of blood in the doorway of the kitchen.
Turell, 34, is on trial for murder and a weapons offense before Mercer County Superior Court Pedro Jimenez and a jury panel of nine woman and seven men.
Under cross examination from Assistant Mercer Prosecutor Skylar Weissman, Turell stuck to her battered housewife story.
Turell told the prosecutor of being choked to near unconsciousness in the basement of the home not long before the shooting started at about 10:40 that night.
When she finally got her breath she found herself locked in the basement, with Whitaker standing right outside the door for about 30 minutes. When he let her out, she said, he backhanded her across the face.
That’s when she got a large black garbage bag from the kitchen and headed upstairs to pack his belongings in it. He confronted her in the room about 10 minutes later,
There, after bumping past her, she said, he reached atop a tall chest and pulled down his silver handgun. Turell said they were standing inches away, on opposite corners of the bottom right of the bed, when he tripped over something in the congested little room.
He fell to both knees, she said, and when she saw the gun fall to the bed she snatched and it instantly fired. Whitaker was hit in the right deltoid by a shot that fatally passed through the top of his chest.
Turell, crying on the witness stand, said she took the gun downstairs and was thinking of shooting herself when it the got stuck. She banged it against the stove and it shot across the room.
She was pointing it toward herself, she said, when Whitaker stumbled down the stairs vomiting up lots of blood and screaming “No, Ive, no, don’t do it,” just as the gun went off and a bullet shot through her left neck and shoulder blade.
Turell told Weissman she doesn’t remember ever telling any cops that her then 6-year-old son — who is known as Eddie, Donnie and Danny — shot Whitaker that night, despite the testimony of city detectives.
But she and defense lawyer Steve Slaven did get on the record the story, which occurred about five months before the murder, of the older boy getting a hold of Whitaker’s gun and it instantly going off. She showed the jury where the bullet left a hole in the armpit of the shirt of then 2-year-old Giovanni and said he was scraped by the slug.
Weissman questioned why she didn’t report that or other incidents to police.