Smoking a cigarette outside, Tavaris Smith saw a couple of suspicious men across the street from his Kevin Drive home.
He testified Wednesday that before going to sleep, he retrieved a gun from a shoebox under the bed and put it underneath his pillow.
Before daybreak, his wife, 27-year-old Tiffany Smith, was fatally shot as she slept.
Tavaris Smith, 33, is accused of murder in his wife’s June 5, 2003, death.
In opening statements Tuesday, the prosecution argued the shooting was intentional and characterized Smith as a jealous, controlling husband.
But the defense maintains the shooting was “a tragic accident.”
In opening statements held Tuesday, Smith’s lawyer told the jury he expected a defense witness to testify the gun was damaged and malfunctioned twice during an independent test conducted in 2009.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigation firearms examiner testified Wednesday that she checked and tested the gun in September 2003.
“The firearm was in good operating condition,” Melba Deveaux said.
She said she visually examined the gun, checked to see that the “thumb safety” worked and tested the gun to see if it could be fired.
Smith spent more than an hour on the witness stand Wednesday, telling the story of the night his wife died.
He testified a noise woke him up in the early hours of June 5, 2003. It sounded like it was outside, so he went back to sleep.
Then he heard a second noise that sounded like it was inside his home.
“I jumped up and I grabbed my gun. I felt the gun jerk in my hand and I heard ‘bang,’ ” Smith testified. “It shocked me.”
Smith said he checked the rest of his house and found everything was OK. When he returned to his bedroom, he flipped on the light and called his wife’s name.
Shaking his head, Smith testified he saw his wife’s eyes were open and that there was blood in her ear.
“She wasn’t moving,” he said. “I knew there was something wrong.”
Smith wept while jurors listened to a recording of his 911 call.
He testified his young son woke up and saw him crying while he was talking with the 911 operator. After the operator said an ambulance was on the way, Smith said he took his two sons to his parents’ house.
When interviewed by the police, Smith said the gun went off by accident, he testified.
“I loved my wife,” Smith said, weeping. “We didn’t have a perfect marriage, but we had unconditional love.
“I never did anything to hurt my wife.”
Smith testified he bought the gun to protect his family after their home was burglarized. He said he’d never fired a gun and never received instruction.
“They loaded the gun at the pawnshop,” he said.
Tiffany Smith’s mother and childhood friend testified Tuesday there was a history of physical violence in the Smiths’ relationship, prosecutor Nancy Scott Malcor said.
The woman’s mother and friend also testified Tiffany Smith had considered divorcing her husband in the months prior to her death, Malcor said.
On the stand Wednesday, Smith denied ever abusing his wife or that they had ever discussed divorce.
Testimony is scheduled to resume today. Smith was convicted of murder in 2005, but the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the conviction in 2008.
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.