By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE - During a sentencing hearing Tuesday, a jury heard a tape of Gwendolyn Greene telling investigators why she beat her mother with a steel pipe last spring.
Greene was mad, she said in a videotaped interview with officers from the Copperas Cove Police Department and the Texas Rangers. Her mother was upset because Greene had missed school that day - April 7 - and she wanted to talk about it.
Their conversation ultimately turned violent. Greene told investigators she hit her mother, Catherine Greene, multiple times with a pipe she found outside before entering her mother's home in the 2400 block of Griffin Drive in Copperas Cove. Catherine Greene later died after being tied up and stuffed into the trunk of a vehicle.
The 20-year-old former Copperas Cove High School student is facing up to life in prison in connection with the death of her mother. She is charged with aggravated kidnapping.
Catherine Greene's death may have resulted from a car fire.
Greene's boyfriend, Steven Barker, flipped the vehicle while speeding away from Catherine Greene's home to a rural area where the couple intended to dispose of 57-year-old Catherine Greene's body, testimony showed.
Greene and investigators are unsure whether Catherine Greene died of blunt-force injuries to her head or burns sustained in the crash.
Greene pleaded guilty Monday after a jury of nine men and three women was selected.
The panel will decide Greene's sentence after the conclusion of testimony, expected today.
The jury heard several law enforcement officials testify Tuesday. Among them was Copperas Cove Lt. Brian Wires, who interrogated Greene following her arrest.
In a 21-minute segment of videotape played for the jury Tuesday, Greene admitted to striking her mother in the head with a steel pipe until she grew tired. During the attack, Catherine Greene fell to the ground.
Looking up at her daughter, she spoke her name, "Gwendolyn," Greene said in the interview.
"I told her, 'My name is Gwen. I hate that name,'" Greene told police.
With that, Greene said she bashed the pipe against her mother's head until Catherine Greene fell unconscious and began bleeding profusely.
Holes in the story
Greene's confession came after police poked holes in her original story. Wires confronted Greene with the totality of her story: that she hit her mom in self-defense, tied her up with torn bed sheets to restrain her from hurting herself, placed her in the trunk of the car because several items were already in the backseat and was on her way to the hospital with Barker when the crash occurred.
Wires said none of it made sense. During interrogation, he asked her to tell the truth and Greene began sobbing. She placed her head in her hands and began to tell another story.
She said her mother called her the day of the incident and told her she wanted to talk. Greene went to her home with Barker, her 31-year-old fiance.
She told him to stay outside while she entered the home holding a steel pipe behind her back, Wires testified.
Within minutes, the attack ensued. Greene later told police she warned her mother to not "enter her space." Her mother approached and Greene struck her with the pipe.
She never got along with her mother, and cared little about her death, Wires testified Tuesday.
"I honestly don't care if I ever see her again," Greene told investigators during the taped interrogation.
Delayed 911 call
But she did care greatly for Barker. As the two drove with Catherine Greene in the trunk down a dirt portion of Lutheran Church Road in rural Copperas Cove, she pleaded with him to slow down and put on a seatbelt, Wires said during testimony Tuesday.
The silver Honda Accord hit a rock and flipped. Barker was ejected from the vehicle.
Greene dragged his body down to a creek to wash him off. She attempted to call friends for help, wanting to avoid trouble, Wires testified. She could not get a signal.
She never checked on her mother, who remained in the trunk for more than an hour as the car caught fire.
Wires testified Greene believed her mother was still alive when she was placed in the trunk. She detected her breathing and checked her pulse before they left the home, Wires testified.
After the accident, Greene waited about an hour before she called 911. When emergency personnel arrived on the scene, they were told a body was in the trunk.
The fire damaged Catherine Greene's body to the point that investigators needed dental records to identify her.
Greene and Barker were airlifted to Scott & White Hospital in Temple. After doctors discharged Greene that night, she was arrested and taken to the Copperas Cove Police Department. Barker was later charged with aggravated kidnapping. He remains in Coryell County Jail.
Greene, dressed in jeans, a sweater and a blue windbreaker, cried softly Tuesday as the interrogation tape was played. She faces between five and 99 years in prison.
The hearing will continue in Judge Trent D. Farrell's 52nd District Court at 9 a.m. today.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553.