The violent, graphic photographs shown in Whitfield County Superior Court on Monday from inside the home at Tanglewood Drive on a January night captured Michael Brandon Townsend's actions.
Townsend has admitted to killing Judy Potts, 72, and Krystal Spainhour, 44, in the home he shared with the mother and daughter. The images of Spainhour’s bruised and bloodied face and the photo of Potts’ disfigurement from where Townsend stomped on her face with his bare foot after strangling the two women to death showed the brutality of the crimes.
Defense attorney Blake Skipper, Townsend's court-appointed public defender, doesn’t deny a brutal crime happened on Jan. 9 of this year when Townsend said in a 911 call reporting the crimes, “I just lost my mind ...”
“Who, what, when and where will not be up for debate,” Skipper said in his opening statement before Judge Scott Minter. “The evidence will be clear that Brandon Townsend killed Judy Potts and Krystal Spainhour. We are not contesting that. There is only one thing that I am asking you to think about through ... however long this trial takes — why? Why? Why would Brandon kill someone who let him stay at their house and he thought of as part of his family? Why would he do that?
“That’s the only question I am asking you to focus on — why?”
Townsend is on trial in the double murder and has been charged with four counts of murder, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of aggravated battery.
“When you hear all of the evidence, I believe that you will come to the conclusion that there is no why,” said Skipper. “There is no reason because when Brandon Townsend killed Judy and Krystal, he did not have the mental capacity to distinguish right and wrong. Right and wrong never entered his mind. He was insane when he killed Judy and Krystal.”
Skipper said Townsend has a history of drug and alcohol abuse and has sought prescription drugs for his mental state of mind.
“I am ultimately not asking you to set Brandon Townsend free and put him out on the street,” Skipper told the jury. “I am asking that you consider all the facts of the case, all of the evidence and I am asking that you give him all the help he has been trying to give himself ... and giving him the medical help that he needs so that we never have to ask, ‘Why?’ again.”
District Attorney Bert Poston said a call to the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office about Townsend the previous day from Potts and a fear of Potts calling again was what caused Townsend to snap.
“That phone call kind of completes the picture of his state of mind,” Poston said. “He did not want the police to come out to the scene. He knew that the police would take him to jail if they came back out twice in one day, and he had had enough of these two women.
“When they threatened to call the police, he attacked Krystal and beat her and began strangling her,” Poston said. “Judy tried to stop him. He grabbed Judy and threw her down on the ground ... He strangled mother and daughter side by side. Then to ensure they were dead, he stomped their face and cut their throats.
“At the conclusion of this, I am going to ask you to hold him accountable for what he did,” he said.
The 911 call made by Townsend and made to Townsend by 911 operator Jessica Walters were played in court on Monday, and the body camera footage from Deputy Ryan Rogers, who was one of the first deputies on the scene, were played in the court. Rogers’ body cam and footage from inside of an interrogation room at the sheriff’s office showed Criminal Investigations Division Capt. Paul Woods reading Townsend his Miranda rights after his arrest and Townsend agreeing to speak to investigators.
Testimony for the prosecution is scheduled to resume today at 9 a.m. The trial is expected to last through Friday.