Stephanie Wilson thought she was doing her friend Teneshia Varner a favor when she went to Varner’s Bynum home to pick up her children after the first day of school in August 2015.
“Teneshia’s car was in the driveway which I thought was odd,” Wilson testified on Wednesday. “I went and knocked on the door but no one answered. I got back in the car and just waited for the girls to get there.”
Varner’s youngest daughter came bounding down the school bus steps after her first day of kindergarten, Wilson said. Minutes before Wilson and the children got to the Beck Road home, the 32-year-old Varner was beaten, cut and stabbed to death in her kitchen. It would be hours before the children knew what happened to their mother, the friend said.
Wilson’s account Wednesday came on the second day of testimony in a murder trial for Varner’s husband, Deandre Varner, 35. Varner was charged, authorities have said, after confessing to stabbing his wife. In addition to Wilson, Oxford police officers, a forensic investigator with the Center for Applied Forensics and other friends of the Varners testified Wednesday.
Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh said during opening statements on Tuesday that Varner’s actions against his wife were intentional. Attorneys David Johnston and Will Clay, representing Varner, said the woman’s death was a crime of passion and falls under manslaughter.
Phillip Groce, Wilson’s husband and Deandre Varner’s supervisor at Honda’s plant in Lincoln, said he’d heard the couple were having issues with their marriage.
“He’d talked about some infidelity,” Groce said. “He said they were going to try and work it out.”
Teneshia Varner had been communicating with a man in prison, prosecutors said on Wednesday. Clay said on Tuesday that Varner had a man with her when she arrived at the home the day she died, but McVeigh said there was no evidence of that.
Groce testified that on the day of the stabbing, he let Varner leave work a little early to get home before the girls returned from school. Varner called Groce after he left work and told him he needed Wilson to pick up the girls from the home and that he’d messed up, but instead using a four-letter expletive.
“We usually say that at work and it’s harmless,” Groce said. “I kind of laughed at him and tried to hurry him off the phone so I could finish up paperwork.”
Groce testified that he called his wife and relayed Varner’s request to her.
“I didn’t know he’d actually done something bad until I drove home and saw everyone at the house,” he said. “I think he was trying to tell me what happened. I wasn’t listening, I was trying to go home.”
Wilson said after she picked up the girls, she drove them to her home a few houses down the street. Within 30 minutes Deandre Varner’s mother, who has since died, showed up at Wilson’s home to get the girls, the friend said.
“We ended up leaving them at my house and going back to Teneshia’s house with a key,” Wilson said. “We went around to where their bedroom was and she was on the floor in the kitchen. Her eyes were open. I thought she was still alive.”
Wilson said Deandre Varner’s mother burst into tears.
“I tried to calm her down and once I got her seated I called 911,” she said. “I told 911 ‘I think she’s dead. I think her husband done killed her.’ Later the girls just kept asking where their momma was.”
After testimony concluded on Wednesday, McVeigh said he expected to finish with witnesses on Thursday. Johnston said he’d likely start and end with his witnesses on Thursday as well. Closing arguments are expected to begin on Friday.