Saturday, February 15, 2020 10:17 PM EST
By The Associated Press, AP
MAGNOLIA, Miss. (AP) — A man accused of killing eight people in Mississippi was fearful of the breakup of his family and “just snapped,” an attorney for the defendant argued Saturday during the first day of his death penalty trial.
The killings began after Willie Cory Godbolt entered his in-laws' home in Bogue Chitto and got into an argument with his estranged wife and her family over the couple's two children, witness Vincent Mitchell testified in a Pike County courtroom, according to The Daily Leader.
Mitchell said Godbolt fatally shot a responding deputy and then killed Godbolt's mother-in-law and two other people. Godbolt then went to two other homes in south Mississippi's Lincoln County, killing two of his teenage cousins and a husband and wife, investigators said.
Godbolt's attorney Katherine Poor told the jurors that her client, now 37, was trying to protect his family and didn't want his daughter staying at the home, since he believed she had been inappropriately touched by a family member there.
“Cory just snapped," Poor said. “Cory couldn’t see the breakup of his family. He couldn’t fail to protect his children. In that moment in a haze of fear at the breakup of his family, Cory pulled his gun out.”
After being captured, Godbolt said “I'm sorry” while a reporter was recording him on a cellphone. Jurors were shown the footage Saturday in which he also said, “I just want to love my wife. I just want to love my family. I just want to love my kids.”
Godbolt has pleaded not guilty to four counts of capital murder, four counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of armed robbery. He has remained in custody since his arrest on May 28, 2017, hours after the shootings.
Because of pretrial publicity in south Mississippi, jury selection was done in north Mississippi's DeSoto County, 285 miles (459 kilometers) north of Lincoln County. The 12 jurors and three alternates were selected Friday. They are hearing the case in Magnolia, which is near Lincoln County.
The trial was scheduled to continue on Sunday.