By Jon Schroeder

Killeen Daily Herald

LAMPASAS – The capital murder trial of Donald Dean Gower continued Tuesday with the so-called "star witness" testimony of Regina Edwards, his former lover.

Gower is accused of having taken part in a murder scheme by offering payment for the death of his wife. Hidi Gower was shot to death at the Kempner Veterans of Foreign Wars post on July 4, 2007, and Chaka Romain Johnson has since been sentenced to life without parole as the shooter.

Defense attorney John Galligan said before the start of the trial that Edwards, who was arrested with four other members of the alleged murder-for-hire plot and against whom charges were later dropped, would serve as a key witness for the prosecution.

Edwards' testimony was strikingly similar to the Johnson trial, and much of it flowed in the same order.

The defense, which had said before the trial that she had "credibility problems," did not attempt to refute Edwards' testimony point-by-point as Johnson's attorney had, instead asking her about Gower's lifestyle, drinking problems, self-medication and mental health condition.

Galligan did point out that between the time Edwards was arrested on July 9 and her release 61 days later, her bond dropped sharply, from $500,000 to $2,500. Charges were dropped a few weeks after her release last September.

Jeremiah Ellison, who was indicted as the link between Gower and other members of the plot, was indicted by a Lampasas grand jury after his testimony in the Johnson trial and has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Sept. 5. He will almost certainly testify in the case, having come to the Lampasas Courthouse but not into district court on Tuesday.

He was released on a $10,000 bond, Allison said.

The final member of the conspiracy, according to his testimony and signed statements, is John Robert Martinez, who has been in the Bell County Jail since his July 9, 2007, arrest.

Martinez's testimony was cited as a turnaround point in the Johnson trial by jurors. He began a similar narrative on Tuesday, describing the murder itself.

One new, significant piece of information was given to jurors on Tuesday: specific payment details. Martinez said Gower lowered his payment from $25,000 to $10,000 in the days before the shooting, and the payment was to be split three ways, with $4,500 going to himself and Johnson. Ellison was to receive $1,000.

The case is being tried before 27th District Court Judge Joe Carroll. Martinez will continue his testimony at 9 a.m.

Contact Jon Schroeder at jons@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7475.

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