RINGGOLD, Ga. - Brian Colby Davenport stood to leave the interrogation room after an hour of talking about the woman he said he loved, about finding her shot dead in his car, an apparent suicide after a long fight with alcohol and methamphetamine abuse.
Catoosa County Sheriff's Office Detective James Stockard told Davenport he could give him a ride home. Feel free to call later, Stockard said, even if you just need someone to talk to. Then, another investigator asked Stockard to come outside, just for a minute. Davenport waited in the room.
It was March 11, 2016, and Davenport had just finished telling the police his story. He and Debora Lynn Abney, 46, had met in 1999. They had two daughters, though case workers at the Division of Family and Children's Services had taken them away. Earlier on this particular afternoon, they had attended a hearing in the custody case. A third daughter of Abney's had testified that she and Davenport were unfit parents.
Later that day, on a family friend's secluded property on Taylors Ridge Road, Davenport said, Abney started drinking. He said he tried to comfort her. When he went to the back of the car to change his shirt, he heard a gunshot. He rushed to the front, saw her covered in blood. Investigators later found the gun in the car, next to her.
Now, back in the interrogation room, about three hours after Abney's death, Stockard asked Davenport to think hard. Crime scene technicians were finding evidence that didn't match his account.
"Here's the problem, OK," Stockard said. "The barrel of the gun is full of mud. You tracking with me?"
"Yes sir," Davenport said.
"If she shot herself," Stockard said, "there's not going to be any obstructions. ... I need you to explain to me why mud is on that gun."
For the next 45 minutes, the two men went back and forth, Stockard pressing Davenport on the particulars of the night, trying to find a detailed explanation for the dirty gun. Eventually, investigators concluded Davenport killed the mother of his children, charging him with malice murder, felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of making false statements, two counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime and two counts of tampering with evidence.
Investigators would then receive an autopsy, with a medical examiner explaining that the bullet that killed Abney entered through the back of her head - not the side or front, the way they do in most suicide cases. Eventually, one of their daughters would testify that she saw Davenport shove Abney into a refrigerator, throw rocks at her and put a gun to her head, threatening to kill her.
Chickamauga Police Cpl. Kenneth Evans would testify that he responded to a call at Abney and Davenport's house in 2009, that Abney said Davenport hit her and bit her. Davenport was gone that night, and the charges were later dropped. A DFCS case manager would also testify that Abney called her in spring 2015, telling her she was afraid Davenport would kill her.
Davenport's attorney, Sean Lowe, would point out to a toxicologist that Abney's methamphetamine use could have made her depressed, meaning Davenport's suicide story is possible. Lowe would also point out that Abney described some people as demons, and her daughter once testified that Abney complained about ghosts - the defense attorney arguing this could imply mental health disorders.
But before any of that happened, Davenport gave Stockard a couple of different accounts to explain the mud in the gun. On Tuesday, during Davenport's trial in Catoosa County Superior Court, Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt played a video of the interview for the jury.
First, Davenport told Stockard the gun flew out of the car after Abney shot herself. He found it and placed it back in the car, next to Abney. Stockard asked why Davenport didn't provide this account when he originally questioned him an hour earlier.
"You're lying to me," he said. "And now I have to wonder, 'Why is he lying to me?' All I want is the truth. If there was an accident in the car, we can work around that. But evidence won't change, and evidence won't lie."
"I feel like they would think I done it, you know?" Davenport said. "I was scared to death."
Stockard walked out of the room. Davenport put his head on the table and sniffled once. Three minutes passed. Stockard returned, put his hands behind his head and exhaled.
"There's some problems," he said. "I'm hoping you lied to me because you're scared."
"Yes sir," Davenport said.
Stockard continued: "It couldn't have happened that way. Just be honest with me."
This time, Davenport said he found Abney dead in the car. Panicked, he reached over, grabbed her gun, dropped it on the ground, then put it back.
"I guess that's when it got dirt on it," he said, running his hands through his hair.
"Why didn't you tell me that?" Stockard said. "Put yourself in my seat. I've got a dead body, and I've got you. I can't go ask her. All I've got is what you tell me, and what the evidence says. And the two do not match up."
Thirty more minutes passed. Stockard pressed him more, said he still didn't believe Davenport. He asked again if he wanted to admit he shot Abney, as an accident.
"I hope for your sake," Stockard said, "nothing else changes."
The trial will resume this morning. Arnt plans to rest the state's case around noon.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.