Would-be hit man testifies at Sturdivant trial

Chris Chatman testified Tuesday that he went into Joe and Joyce Sturdivant’s bedroom with a gun and a knife, but fled the house after a scuffle with Joe Sturdivant Jr.

An alleged hit man who said he unwittingly was recruited to kill Joyce Sturdivant’s husband in September 2007 testified that she hid in a bathroom and covered her ears like she was waiting for a gunshot after he fought with her husband at their home in Robinson.

Christopher Chatman testified Tuesday that his Waco neighbor of five years, Ali Abdulla Mohammed, told him he needed help because a friend of his was being abused by her husband and “something needed to be done.”

Mohammed didn’t tell him that they had been hired to kill someone, Chatman said.

Sturdivant, 66, is on trial in Waco’s 54th State District Court for capital murder and attempted capital murder.

She is charged with shooting and killing her 68-year-old husband, Joe Sturdivant Jr., while he slept in October 2008. She also is charged with hiring two sets of would-be hit men to kill her husband in September 2007 and September 2008.

Sturdivant dabbed at tears with a tissue Tuesday afternoon as a medical examiner described the fatal wounds her husband suffered to the back of the head and to the middle of his back.

Chatman, dressed in jail overalls, is serving 180 days in jail for failure to pay child support. His testimony about seeing Sturdivant in the bathroom contradicted her story that night to police that an intruder surprised her in the bathroom when he came in and knocked her unconscious with a blow to the head.

A doctor testified Tuesday that there was no CT scan evidence that Sturdivant suffered a head injury that night, although hospital reports said she suffered a concussion and complained of headaches.

Chatman said Mohammed was “like a father figure” to him and told him to “come ride with me” on Sept. 27, 2007.

He said Mohammed drove toward Robinson, stopping about 3 a.m. at a pay phone to call Joyce Sturdivant to let her know they were on the way. At that point, Chatman said, Mohammed had not said what they were going to do, only that the woman at the home was getting abused and they needed to help her.

Chatman said Mohammed told him Sturdivant would leave the front door open and put up the couple’s small but aggressive dogs so they would not alert her husband.

Mohammed gave Chatman a knife and a pistol, saying he might need it because Joe Sturdivant slept with a knife and a shotgun near his bed, Chatman said.

Chatman said he went inside and wandered around the dark house until he ended up outside the bedroom door. Joe Sturdivant was in bed, he said.

“He turned around and looked at me and he was startled,” Chatman said. “Of course, he would be because I had a gun in my hand. He immediately got up and rushed me.”

Chatman said he tried to explain why he was there, but the feisty former champion stock car driver was starting to get the better of him, picking him up and slamming him to the floor at one point.

Chatman said he finally broke free from Joe Sturdivant’s grasp after he bashed him in the head several times with the butt of his gun.

Before he fled, Chatman said, he saw Joyce Sturdivant standing in the bathroom, wearing a “purple, see-through negligee.”

‘Finish the job’

When Chatman got back to Mohammed’s van and told him what happened, he said, Mohammed was mad because he had not killed Sturdivant.

He said they would have to go back and “finish the job,” Chatman said, adding that he declined because he was angry that Mohammed misled him about why they went there in the first place and because “I’m not a killer.”

Chatman, who was granted immunity from prosecution for his testimony, said Mohammed and Joyce Sturdivant were friends. He said he saw her frequently drive up to Mohammed’s Lexington Street home in her orange Hummer.

In other prosecution testimony Tuesday, Deborah Dieterich, of Riesel, a Mexia State School employee, testified that she helped recruit two more men in late summer 2008 to kill Joe Sturdivant at Joyce Sturdivant’s request.

When special prosecutor Guy Cox asked her why she would get mixed up in such a far-fetched scheme, Dieterich said: “I really don’t know. I was not in my right state. I was going through a bad deal.”

Dieterich said she befriended Joyce Sturdivant when she worked for an auto parts company and delivered transmission parts to Sturdivant’s shop on South 18th Street.

Later, she started working at Sturdivant’s transmission shop and said she grew to feel like she had to do Joyce Sturdivant’s bidding.

Sturdivant told Dieterich that she didn’t have any money but could offer any prospective hit men jewelry in exchange for killing her husband, she said.

Dieterich met Carlos Garcia at the Village Green Apartments pool, and they struck up a friendship, she said. Garcia said he knew a man, Chris Taylor, who might want to take the job but he wanted $20,000 to do it, she said.

She told Sturdivant, who gave her two diamond cluster rings to give to Garcia in exchange for killing Joe Sturdivant, she said.

When the men did not kill Joe Sturdivant, Joyce Sturdivant demanded that she call Garcia to seek the return of her rings, Dieterich said.

“She said she would just take care of her husband herself,” Dieterich said.

About a week before the slaying, Joyce Sturdivant asked Dieterich to go to an H-E-B store to buy her a shower cap.

“I thought that was strange, but when I gave it to her, she said that she had all she needed now,” Dieterich said.

On the day Joe Sturdivant was killed, Dieterich said, Joyce Sturdivant came to work and seemed “like a weight was lifted off of her.”

Prosecution testimony will resume this morning.

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