Rachel Lopez, the eldest daughter of Joanna Madonna, testified in court Friday that her mom told her that her stepfather had cut her with a knife.
Lopez, whose testimony was tearful at times, said her mother was sweaty, upset and on the phone on the night before Jose Perez was found dead in a ditch near Falls Lake in northern Wake County. Madonna is on trial for murder in his death on that Father’s Day weekend.
The Wake County Superior Court jury will be tasked with deciding whether Madonna plotted to murder her husband of four years in June 2013 or if Perez was stabbed to death while she was defending herself.
Lopez said she noticed a cut on her mother’s left arm, about four inches long, and asked her what happened.
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“I could tell she was upset,” Lopez recounted.
Lopez said she screamed, “He cut you” in amazement and that her mother tried to quiet her.
“She told me to shush because my grandfather was in the next room,” Lopez said.
Lopez told her mother to call police, but neither Madonna nor her daughter did.
A passerby found Perez, bloodied and lifeless, in a ditch on Old Bayleaf Road on June 16, 2013. Wake County investigators soon turned their attention to School House Street in the Brier Creek neighborhood where the couple lived.
Lopez talked with investigators during that visit and later during a taped interview at the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.
On Friday, she described her mom as a “caring” and “loving person,” and said she had a good relationship with her stepfather. She said their household was a nurturing one and that her mother and Perez fought about little things such as money but never had any physical struggles.
The testimony came on a day that jurors also heard from the man with whom both prosecutors and defense lawyers say Madonna had started a romantic relationship with outside her marriage.
That man, John Richardson, who was a therapist for Madonna for a short time, also testified Friday about seeing Madonna shortly after police say her husband was killed.
Richardson, who described the relationship as “flirting” and a “kiss one time,” testified that Madonna sent several texts to him on the weekend that her husband was killed. One text was “it’s done.” Another was “it got ugly.”
Richardson said he was under the impression that Madonna had talked with Perez about ending her marriage and that there had been tension.
Madonna came over to Richardson’s home after the killing, and she had scratches and cuts that she told him had been inflicted while she tried to break off the marriage with Perez.
Richardson asked why Madonna had not called police and recounted her saying that she did not want to do that.
Richardson said he ended therapy sessions with Madonna in May 2013 but began having lunch with her and seeing her shortly after that. He said his professional career has suffered because of that relationship.
“I made a mistake, definitely,” said Richardson, who worked at the time with Carolina Partners, a group of therapists and doctors.
Richardson told Madonna that he did not want to be the reason she separated from Perez, but recounted a conversation in which she had begun to tell others in her Alcoholics Anonymous groups that she planned to leave her husband.
Deonte’ Thomas, a Wake County public defender, on cross-examination pointed out that Richardson responded “something to the effect” that he “wanted first dibs.”
Shortly after arriving at Richardson’s house the day Perez’s body was found, Madonna got a call to come home, because investigators were there looking into the death.
The trial will continue next week. It is unclear whether the defense will put on any witnesses or whether Madonna will take the stand in her defense.