The accused killer in an Internet romance gone wrong, Theodore Manning, took the witness stand this morning in the Richland County courthouse and blamed one of his other girlfriends for coming up with the idea to stuff Nikki McPhatter’s body in a car trunk and burn the car and body up in rural Fairfield County.
“She told me to lift her feet and help her put Nikki’s body in the car,” Manning, 31, testified.
Girlfriend Kendra Goodman also had the idea to loot McPhatter’s bank accounts by using her ATM cards at a Columbia Wachovia ATM after the body was disposed of, said Manning, who worked at Westinghouse on Bluff Road near his house.
Goodman, one of six girl friends in Manning’s life in May 2009 when McPhatter was killed, originally wanted to take McPhatter’s car for herself before coming up with the idea to burn it, Manning said.
“She said it was such a pretty car and she wanted to keep it,” Manning testified.
Throughout his almost two hours under questioning by his lawyer, Luke Shealey, Manning portrayed McPhatter as a crazed, possessive women who flew into hysterics and attacked him in his house on May 6, 2009, after he told her he didn’t want a “serious” relationship.
She brandished his .380 caliber pistol at him, but even though he wrested it away from her, she kept coming at him, and that’s when the gun discharged, Manning said. An autopsy showed McPhatter had been shot in the back of the head.
At the time, he didn’t even know she had been shot, Manning testified. Once he realized that, he called Goodman, who quickly persuaded him to dispose of the body and rob her bank accounts, he testified.
Goodman, who testified last week, is a key prosecution witness. She told the jury Manning orchestrated getting rid of the body.
McPhatter, who worked for an airline in Charlotte, met Manning in February 2009 through the Internet dating site, Tagged.com, Manning testified.
After she went missing in early May 2009, her friends and family searched frantically for her for several weeks until her badly burned body was found in late May in Fairfield County.
Fifth Circuit Solicitor Barney Giese’s cross-examination of Manning today went into the early afternoon.
How, asked Giese, could Manning -- who had admitted having relationships with six women simultaneously without any of them knowing about the others -- let himself be manipulated by Goodman into a plot to burn and dispose of McPhatter’s body?
In reply, Manning told the court he was so shaken by shooting and killing McPhatter, he hardly knew what he was doing.
Manning is charged with murder, a crime that carries a penalty of from 30 years to life in prison. There is no parole or early release for murder.
Giese rejected attempts by the defense to plea bargain and is seeking a life without parole sentence. Manning’s lawyers, from the 5th Circuit public defender’s office, are seeking to have the judge charge the jury with manslaughter, which carries a far lesser penalty.