Prosecutors rested their case on Tuesday in the murder trial of Joanna Madonna, the former Wake County teacher accused of murdering her husband.
The defense immediately began calling witnesses in a trial expected to end this week.
Madonna, through her defense team, has acknowledged having a hand in the death of Jose Perez on Father’s Day weekend in 2013.
But the mother of three, who has struggled with substance abuse issues and post-traumatic stress from several years of living on the streets as a teenager, claims to have stabbed her husband in self defense.
The state wrapped up its evidence on Tuesday with a series of flirtatious texts between Madonna and her former therapist.
Wake County Sheriff’s Detective Darcy Weaver read dozens of texts exchanged between Madonna and John Chadwick Richardson, a former therapist who described his relationship with her as “inappropriate.”
Richardson, whom Madonna called Chad in her texts, testified last week that he had kissed his former client once and gone on several dates with her after he stopped treating her in May 2013.
Perez was found bloodied and lifeless on June 16, 2013, in a ditch near Falls Lake in northern Wake County.
Madonna initially told investigators that her husband had left their home on Schoolhouse Street in the Brier Creek neighborhood without her. She told his family and detectives that Perez, a recovering alcoholic, had started drinking and using drugs again. She also told investigators shortly after being told her husband was dead that she thought Perez was having an affair outside their marriage.
But prosecutors contend that Madonna wanted out of her marriage and killed her husband so she could be with another man.
Prosecutors have highlighted Madonna’s relationship with Richardson to bolster their argument.
Richardson, a therapist who struggled with substance abuse, voluntarily entered a probationary period with the North Carolina Board of Licensed Professional Counselors on March 1, 2013.
In the consent order, posted on the licensing board’s web site, Richardson acknowledged that from May 12, 2012, to Oct. 19, 2012, he “was impaired due to his substance abuse and mental health status.”
As of June 27, 2015, Richardson was in good standing with the licensure board, according to a document posted on the web site.
The texts between Richardson and Madonna ranged from telling each other good morning or good night to talking about kissing, what makes a woman sexy and her trip to South Carolina to visit family the day that prosecutors think she killed Perez to an “it’s done” message.
Richardson said last week, he thought that message referred to Madonna telling Perez she wanted to split up with him.
She texted that Perez left on foot and told her he wanted to walk in front of a truck.
Rachel Lopez, Madonna’s oldest daughter, told investigators that she had seen her mother and Perez leave the Schoolhouse street home together on the Saturday before his body was found. Madonna, according to her daughter, came home alone and told Lopez that Perez had cut her.
But neither Lopez nor Madonna called police.
Perez’s daughter, Vanessa Gantt, testified for prosecutors on Tuesday about texts she received from Madonna around the time of her father’s death.
Gantt said Madonna’s messages said “he was hanging out with people who were drinking and doing drugs” and that he needed to leave.
“That was not his character,” Gannt said.
Late on Tuesday, after the prosecution told Judge Henry Hight that they rested their case, the defense called a therapist who had seen Perez in 2009 before he married Madonna.
She had sessions with Perez alone and then after they became a couple, she saw the two together occasionally.
The two had a relationship of “co-dependency,” the therapist said.
Perez also had anxiety about Madonna leaving him and for a while kept a suitcase packed in case he were forced to go.
Madonna initially told investigators that Perez left their home with a suitcase.
Prosecutors will begin cross-examination of the defense’s first witness on Wednesday morning.