Defendant: I used ax in self-defense

LAWRENCEVILLE - Accused murderer Shannon Marlow told jurors Wednesday he killed his girlfriend with an ax because she'd stormed at him with a knife.

Marlow, testifying on his 35th birthday, admitted to killing Patricia Rabold a day prior to Valentine's Day last year but maintained his actions were in self-defense.

"I thought I was about to get gutted," Marlow said of the fateful confrontation in the foyer of the couple's Edgemoor Drive home. "She would have killed me."

Marlow testified he unloaded a flurry of punches to Rabold's face until she fell. Then he grabbed an ax near the front door - used for chopping wood in the driveway - and struck her with the blunt side of the tool three times, he said.

Testimony from Gwinnett's top forensic examiner told a different story.

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Carol Terry said Rabold, 47, was struck at least five times with the ax's blade, resulting in skull fractures. Rabold's hands bore lacerations, a nearly severed fingertip and broken bones - evidence she was trying to defend herself, Terry said.

Marlow, the defense's sole witness, is charged with murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and theft by receiving stolen property. He faces life in prison. The relatively brief trial is expected to conclude today.

During cross-examination, Marlow clashed with Assistant District Attorney Maggie Benson, offering sharp-tongued responses and speaking out of turn as the prosecutor probed.

"You're not allowed to just blurt out stuff," Benson cautioned at one point.

Marlow admitted to lying in an initial interview with investigators. Though he's been treated for psychiatric issues for years, he said it was never paranoia that sparked Rabold's killing, but self-defense.

The purpose of lying was to establish the foundation of an insanity plea, he said.

"I didn't know Georgia recognized the self-defense law," he said. "I thought it was discontinued in the '90s."

At the time of Rabold's killing, he'd been awake for five days on a binge of crack cocaine, he testified.

Cooped up in the home with Rabold's body, with swarms of SWAT team members outside, Marlow said he contemplated ending his life in a hailstorm of bullets.

"I had no intention of coming out of that house alive," he said. "I wanted the cops to kill me. I think the term would be 'suicide by cop.'"

Closing arguments are expected to begin at 9 a.m. today.