LAWRENCEVILLE -- Hours before a fatal Valentine's Day stabbing in a Wal-Mart parking lot, Phillip "Chad" Dunn confided in his eldest daughter that "her mommy had killed him inside" and that he was bent on reciprocating the pain, an investigator testified Tuesday, recalling interviews.
Dunn, 28, is accused of knifing his estranged wife, Shelley, 27, to death Feb. 14 in front of their two daughters, ages 8 and 6, as they met for a custody swap at the Suwanee retailer. The killing capped a tumultuous month in which Dunn had been jailed for beating his wife, and she'd moved out and began dating again, according to testimony in a probable cause hearing.
The alleged murder weapon, a kitchen knife, belonged to Dunn's mother, Susan Dunn, who had driven him and his children to Wal-Mart in his Chevrolet truck.
Family members told police Dunn leapt from the truck, briefly questioned his wife about a man she'd been seeing, and dropped his fist in several downward jabs, testified Suwanee police Sgt. Shame Edmisten.
Edmisten said Dunn's mother told police she'd latched onto him as the victim fell to her back and tried to push herself away. Two male bystanders also intervened.
Dunn had been drinking, his mother told police, and responding officers found beer inside his truck, Edmisten testified. Toxicology reports are pending.
An autopsy revealed three stabs wounds in Shelley Dunn's back -- two near her spine and one between her shoulder blades, Edmisten testified. She died from massive internal bleeding.
Chad Dunn was hospitalized for two self-inflicted stabs wounds to his chest that "weren't that serious," Edmisten said. He has declined to speak with investigators.
Wearing a loose-fitting jail jumpsuit and disheveled brown hair, Chad Dunn sobbed during testimony, frequently rubbing his face and eyes. He shuffled to and from the courtroom without a glance toward gallery pews.
Defense attorney David Clark made Edmisten specify that Shelley had been seeing a black man, and he hinted she'd been seeing another man prior to the marital turbulence.
Chad Dunn had recently been evaluated for mental illness in Barrow County, Edmisten said, and his mother told police he'd dealt with depression and suicidal tendencies. He was placed on suicide watch at the Gwinnett County Jail upon his arrest.
The arrest was Dunn's second in a week. He'd been booked on battery and aggravated assault charges for allegedly beating his wife the prior Wednesday. Shelley Dunn moved to Buford while her husband was incarcerated; upon his release, Chad Dunn rented an apartment at his mother's Lawrenceville home, Edmisten said.
Interviews with Chad Dunn's mother and evidence at the scene suggest the killing took some planning, Edmisten said.
Gwinnett Magistrate Court Judge Gene Cantrell found probable cause to bind charges of murder and felony murder to Superior Court for indictment. Chad Dunn remains jailed without bond.
Shelley Dunn died shortly after the altercation at Gwinnett Medical Center. She was buried last month in Cumming.
Outside the courtroom, a woman who identified herself as the victim's aunt said Shelley Dunn's grandfather has taken custody of the girls. She declined further comment.