Agreeing to kill was a 'charade,' man testifies at Allen husband's trial

Allen: He testifies husband hired him, but moral code stopped him

12:00 AM CST on Friday, February 1, 2008

By TIARA M. ELLIS / The Dallas Morning News

McKINNEY – An ex-convict who told police that an Allen man offered him money to kill his pregnant wife testified Thursday that he has a moral code that would never allow him to harm a woman or a child.

And Jeffrey Thompson added that anyone who would is worse than a child molester.

"You don't ask no man to do your killing," Mr. Thompson testified in the attempted murder-for-hire trial of Albert Jackson Sterling II. "And you sure don't ask him to do a woman and baby."

Because of that philosophy, Mr. Thompson said, he became offended when Mr. Sterling asked him to kill his wife. Mr. Thompson said he felt compelled to tell Roxane Johnson-Sterling about the plan for which he said Mr. Sterling offered him $20,000 – $10,000 before and $10,000 after the deed was done.

"It was all a charade. I never intended to kill that woman," Mr. Thompson said.

Mr. Thompson testified that he met Mr. Sterling in October 2006 at Skillman Street Pub, where Mr. Thompson was a cook.

On Nov. 17, 2006, Mr. Sterling picked up Mr. Thompson at the pub and drove him to his Allen house, Mr. Thompson said. Mr. Sterling showed him around the house and on the return trip to Dallas started asking questions, he said.

"He asked me if I ever killed anybody," Mr. Thompson said. "I said, 'Yeah.' He asked if I was scared to kill anyone. I said, 'No.' "

They met next on Nov. 21, 2006, when Mr. Sterling picked up Mr. Thompson from the pub and drove him to Allen. Mr. Thompson said Mr. Sterling did not believe Mrs. Johnson-Sterling was pregnant with his child and wanted the insurance money that could come from her death.

Mr. Thompson said he hid in the back yard and was given gloves, a blanket and belt by Mr. Sterling, who had asked him that there be no blood in the house. Then, Mr. Thompson said, Mr. Sterling honked twice when he, his wife and his 3-year-old son left for the airport as a signal to go into the house.

Mr. Sterling and his son flew to Alamogordo, N.M., that day to visit his parents.

Mr. Thompson said he waited for Mrs. Johnson-Sterling to return and when she did, he tried to calm the woman, who was eight months pregnant.

"I said, 'I ain't here to hurt you. Your husband wanted me to kill you,' " Mr. Thompson said.

Defense attorney Russell Wilson asked Mr. Thompson if he thought the woman, who was wearing her Bluetooth earpiece, was on the phone and didn't kill her because of that. Mr. Thompson said he did think she was on the phone but added that he had no plans to hurt her.

Mrs. Johnson-Sterling ran next door and had a neighbor call police.

When Allen police arrived, Mr. Thompson was waiting outside and began explaining the alleged plot to police, although he admits he was not completely honest.

Mr. Thompson said he initially lied to police about wearing the gloves and having a belt in his hands when Mrs. Johnson-Sterling walked into the room.

"No matter what you do in this life, when you've been convicted, it's hard to convince the police that you ain't did nothing," Mr. Thompson said.

He testified that Mr. Sterling told him to kill Mrs. Johnson-Sterling, cut up her body and dump one half in South Dallas and the other half in East Dallas.

"That's a gruesome way to kill somebody, isn't it?" Mr. Wilson asked.

Mr. Thompson replied, "That's overkill. You can't kill somebody but one time."

Mr. Thompson was cordial and polite while being questioned by prosecutor Barnett Walker. But when Mr. Wilson began questioning him, Mr. Thompson became defensive – especially when asked about his criminal past.

Mr. Thompson was convicted of aggravated robbery in 1983 and sentenced to 15 years but was released before serving the full term. In 1991, he was sentenced to 15 years for cocaine possession. He was on probation for that crime in November 2006.

Some of the hostility appeared to spill over into the breaks after the jury left the room.

During one such break, Mr. Thompson walked from the witness stand toward Mr. Sterling, staring at him the entire way. As Mr. Thompson got right next to Mr. Sterling, he leaned in and feigned a quick head movement at him.

Mr. Sterling returned the glare and did not flinch but later, his attorney seemed to take exception.

"Now he can't be mean-mugging me or we really will have a problem," Mr. Wilson told Mr. Walker.

"I don't know what you want me to do," Mr. Walker said. "He doesn't work for me, Mr. Wilson. I'll ask him to apologize ... he's your client's hit man."

Mr. Thompson is scheduled to continue his testimony this morning.

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