Alastair Couch says a botched robbery killed Tomma Graves.
Couch took the stand in his own defense today and said he had no reason to kill Graves, who he described as a close personal friend since he met her in 1999.
He said Graves came to his Devils Hollow Road residence to give him a ride to CVS Pharmacy off East Main Street, where he planned to sell crack cocaine to Dusty Whitis. Whitis said he planned to buy marijuana, but Couch said he sold cocaine, not marijuana.
When he approached Graves’ white Chevrolet Silverado, Couch said a man wearing all black and a stocking over his head put a gun to his back and told him to get in the truck. The man demanded money, Couch said.
Graves drove the truck down Devils Hollow toward South Frankfort when he struggled with the man for the gun, a five-shot revolver, Couch said.
He heard Graves scream, and the man fled the truck, Couch testified. He said he tried to shoot the man, but his 9mm jammed. He heard gunshots as he drove the truck down the hill, he said.
Couch knew Graves was dead when he got behind the wheel, he said.
Couch said he drove the truck to Paul Sawyier Public Library and then the downtown parking lot where police found Graves’ body Aug. 2.
Couch admitted throwing out the shell casings from Whitis’ red Dodge Dakota, but he said it was Whitis’ idea to burn his bloody shirt. Couch said he doesn’t smoke and didn’t carry a lighter that day, but Whitis, a smoker, did.
Couch said he threw the murder weapon off a cliff near Stedmantown Lane.
Couch said he didn’t tell police his story because of bad experiences with them in the past and didn’t think they’d believe him.
Couch said he carried a gun because people wanted him dead.
He said if he wanted to kill Graves execution-style in her truck, he would’ve pressed the gun against her head and fired once, maybe twice.
See Sunday's State Journal for a full story.