Joanna Madonna had few simple “yes” or “no” answers on Thursday for the Wake County prosecutor questioning her about inconsistencies in her testimony from the day before and that of other witnesses and evidence from her murder trial.
Madonna, 48, is accused of murdering her husband Jose Perez, who was found dead on Father’s Day weekend June 2013 in a ditch near Falls Lake.
Madonna initially told investigators who came to their home on Schoolhouse Street in the Wakefield neighborhood that her husband had left their home with a suitcase and started out for Florida.
Eventually, though, Madonna provided a different narrative and acknowledged having a hand in Perez’s death, but claimed it was self-defense.
On Thursday, shortly before the defense rested its case, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Deborah Shandles asked Madonna why her Rachel Lopez, her oldest daughter, recounted seeing her mother in clothes shortly after the violence that did not match the description from Madonna’s testimony.
Madonna testified that she immediately came into the house after leaving the scene from where she had been “swinging a knife” at Perez to get him off of her and began calling people.
Lopez, though, did not recount seeing blood on her mother’s face or clothes. She recounted a four-inch long scratch on her mother’s left arm that Madonna told her had been inflicted by Perez.
Shandles questioned, though, why if, as Madonna described in her testimony, that Perez was on top of her, holding her down after a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his face, there was no blood on her clothing.
Madonna said the blood was probably dripping on the ground, not her clothes.
Jurors are likely to begin their deliberations on Monday after closing arguments in the morning. They will be asked to consider contrasting narratives of what happened to Perez.
Madonna has claimed she picked up a knife and slashed at Perez on June 14, 2013, after he knocked her to the ground in a remote area near Falls Lake and held her down with his arm and body.
She claimed she thought she was going to die, but got a burst of energy after he threatened “to get” her middle daughter, Michelle.
Michelle was at the scene, according to Madonna, and later refused to help clean blood out of the Jeep once her mom had returned home.
Madonna acknowledged for Shandles that she lied to many in the hours after leaving Perez on the side of the road with knife wounds.
Madonna told many that Perez had left her and gone to Florida until she finally acknowledged that she had driven him from their home on that Saturday afternoon and that the violence followed.
Once home, Madonna said she became angry at her husband for trying to kill her, though prosecutors contend she plotted his death and used a knife and gun she had gotten that day to end his life.
Investigators found many of Perez’s belongings in garbage bags — his clothes, ID cards and more.
Madonna said on Wednesday she filled the bags, thinking that Perez, who she had left cut and bloodied on the roadside, would need them once he made it to the home of his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor.
Madonna testified that she took Perez out for a ride to tell him she wanted out of her marriage and then planned to drop him off at his sponsor’s home.
Madonna, who acknowledged cheating on her husband, said Perez became agitated during that drive and she pulled over in a church parking lot after he clutched his chest as if he were having a heart attack.
It was during that stop, she said, that Perez fired a gun. She was not explicit about where he got the gun or whose gun it was that he used. She said Perez pointed the gun at her first and then turned it on himself. Medical examiner reports showed that Perez suffered a gunshot wound to the cheek that shattered his dental work.
But instead of calling emergency dispatchers or police, Madonna said, she got Perez back into the Jeep, strapped him in the passenger side with a seat belt and then started out for WakeMed hospital and then the Veterans Administration Hospital in Durham.
Madonna said her phone was at their home on Schoolhouse Street, charging in the bedroom at the time.
She said Perez told her he did not have his phone, but later in her testimony she said she retrieved his phone from the Jeep after leaving him in the roadside.
She then texted his friends with her phony story.
After sending the jury home for the day, Judge Henry Hight asked Madonna outside their earshot if she was willing to give her attorneys approval to tell the jury that she killed her husband.
Madonna had already testified to that, but as part of the legal process, the defendant had to give approval for that.
Deonte’ Thomas, one of the Wake County public defenders representing Madonna, also talked briefly with his client to ask if she would give approval for the judge to instruct jurors that a verdict of voluntary manslaughter was an option.
Thomas said the defense team still planned to argue that the homicide was committed as Madonna defended herself. However, Hight told him that there had been enough evidence for the jury to consider voluntary manslaughter, a lesser offense than the first-degree murder that prosecutors have alleged.
Prosecutors say Madonna killed her husband after beginning a romantic relationship with her former therapist. They argue that she plotted Perez’s death.