LAWRENCEVILLE - Double-murder suspect Troy "Lee" Davis Jr. told jurors Thursday he loved his aunt and uncle, and that finding their mutilated bodies "nauseated" him.
Defense attorneys called Davis to the stand as a third day of testimony wound down. Charged with two counts each of murder and felony murder, he faces life in prison.
During three hours of testimony, Davis slouched on the stand and spoke in a thick, squawky drawl. At points, his right arm seemed to involuntarily tremble. His mother and sister looked on from the gallery, the sole citizen spectators.
Defense attorney Robert Greenwald led Davis through a detailed account of Feb. 28, 2005, the day he called 911 to report his elderly aunt and uncle - siblings Lavader Chambers, 76, and Horace Marsingill, 79 - were brutally murdered.
Davis testified he'd planned to apply for a job that day at a nearby Dairy Queen, but his discovery changed those plans, he said. He claimed a hernia had barred him from holding a steady job for years.
Of his uncle, Davis said: "He was a real good friend ... If I'd have known anything was happening, I'd have fought for him." And of his aunt: "I loved her, too, but I avoided her sometimes."
Greenwald repeatedly pointed to graphic crime-scene photos enlarged on a projector, asking his client, "Did you do that?"
Davis replied each time with a solemn, "No."
Prosecutors believe Davis, described as a socially awkward hoarder, grew tired of Chambers' nagging to clean up and snapped, stabbing both victims more than 20 times each.
Davis' attorneys argue he lacked a motive to kill. A collection of more than 20 knives was recovered in his room - which Davis testified were priced to be sold at a flea market - but the murder weapon was never found.
Upon discovering the bodies, Davis testified he briefly checked their pulses, retrieved his loaded shotgun and called 911.
"I believe I panicked," he testified. "I worried there might be a perpetrator in the house."
In a heated cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Rich Vandever worked to highlight inconsistencies between Davis' initial statements and his testimony. Notably, Vandever implied that Davis concocted a story about napping on his mother's back porch the morning of the killings to better suit his established timeframe.
A key piece of evidence is a note Davis admitted scribbling to his mother, reading: "I don't want any trouble to come your way, so I'm leaving."
On the stand, Davis claimed the note meant he didn't want the continued presence of police investigators to get her booted from government housing. Vandever argued the plainclothes investigators were hardly noticeable.
Earlier, prosecutors played an interview between police and Davis taped the day of the killings. In it, Davis posits the slayings could have been the work of "a crackhead" he'd seen around the home a year earlier.
"Maybe he heard (the victims) had some money," Davis said on tape.
Closing arguments in the trial are expected today.