In the second day of the capital murder trial of Willie Cory Godbolt, jurors heard testimony from the ex-wife of the man accused in a string of murders in Bogue Chitto in May of 2017.
Prosecutors allege Willie Cory Godbolt killed eight people in an all-night rampage.
Testimony from Godbolts’ ex-wife, Sheena May, painted a picture of a long history of domestic abuse and mental and emotional control over their family on the part of Cory Godbolt.
His defense attorneys said Godbolt has lived a life marked by violence and dysfunction, describing the moments leading up to the shooting that killed May’s relatives and Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy William Durr.
Godbolt listened intently as state prosecutor Brendan Adams questioned May regarding her 17-year relationship with Godbolt, noting they’d been married the seven years leading up to the shootings. May testified they’d been separated a number of times throughout the course of their relationship, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time.
Defense attorneys attempted to invoke the spousal privilege rule, which would have rendered May ineligible to testify as a witness, and argued May was only witness to the scene of the first two shootings and not the others. Prosecutors argued that because the case is being tried as one unit, “one continuous transaction,” and the case involved a minor child of the witness, May should have the right to testify.
Circuit Judge David Strong ruled in favor of prosecutors, allowing May to take the witness stand at about 1:40 p.m. in the proceedings, which started at 1 pm. Sunday.
May revealed she had finalized divorce proceedings with Willie Cory Godbolt just last week, and requested the court not to refer to her as Sheena Godbolt.
May testified she and Godbolt had been separated for about two months before the shootings occurred.
“I chose my life over my marriage,” she said. “He was abusive to me.”
Godbolt was apparently angered after an incident involving his daughter that took place a year before the shootings. May testified that Godbolt had urged her to press criminal charges against her mother and stepfather for failing their responsibility in watching over his daughter. May refused to do so, which she said upset Godbolt.
May said she told Godbolt’s brother, Chris Godbolt, about the situation and asked him to speak with Cory Godbolt about it. She said the Godbolt physically assaulted her in response to her refusal to press charges, injuring her severely. She said she went to the hospital following the fight and then went to stay with her parents. She said Godbolt hit her between 15 and 20 times in the lower abdomen, choked her and put his hand down her throat until May agreed to give Godbolt her cell phone and provide him with the password.
May said she eventually gave in, provided Godbolt the phone password and was told to leave the property and to not return. She then went to the hospital.
May said their property in Bogue Chitto was used by children from around the area because they played basketball there.
May said on Memorial Day weekend in May 2017, she’d been staying at her mother’s trailer nearby. She said she went to Cory’s trailer after getting off of work to pick up her children, who had been at a barbecue. She took her children back to her mother’s house.
May said Godbolt came to the trailer to pick up their kids between 7 and 7:30 p.m., but the children hadn’t finished eating yet so they brought their food with them to Godbolts’ car. Cory dropped the children back off at their grandmothers’ house around 9 p.m. to shoot fireworks and didn’t return to the property until 11, just before the shooting.
May testified Godbolt took her cell phone about two weeks prior to the shooting and that she was using her daughter’s phone.
Under cross-examination, it was revealed that Godbolt and May traded messages in the hours leading up to the shooting, with Godbolt telling her his only priority was to keep their family together and apparently expressed affection to May. But he also said he did not want law enforcement involved in the custody dispute, not believing an officer would treat him fairly. May said she took that to mean Godbolt would take matters into his own hands.
May said she was in a back room in her mothers’ trailer with her children, the room where the three slept, when she received a text on her daughter’s phone from her sister alerting her to Cory having arrived outside the trailer. May testified she immediately called 911 after receiving that message.
Godbolt parked outside the trailer and entered through the kitchen, May said. She said he was loud in their initial confrontation inside the trailer, where Godbolt apparently appealed to her parents about his desire to keep his children.
In the midst of the argument, Durr entered the trailer and attempted to identify Willie Cory Godbolt. Godbolt apparently identified Mitchell as himself, but Durr determined Goldbolt’s identity. He apparently asked Godbolt to leave the property, and Godbolt attempted to explain his side of the story.
May said in that moment, somebody entered the trailer through a back-door and Godbolt turned toward the front door, feigning an attempt to exit, before reaching behind him and drawing a pistol, shooting Durr in the face.
“I saw it,” May said. “I saw blood.”
May said Durr fell onto his back and everybody in the house ran in terror. She said she saw Godbolt shoot at her aunt Brenda May.
May ran to the back room, where her children were, busted out the bedroom window with her fist, hopped a nearby fence and ran through the woods to Michael Blackwells’ house.
She said she beat on the door until Blackwell, a longtime family friend, opened up and told May to stay in a room in his house with her children until it was safe for her to leave. She called police again, left the residence and went to her sister Daphne’s house. From there, she called Tiffany Blackwell, whom May described and a close friend. She said Tiffany soon received a call notifying her that one of her sons had been shot.
Blackwell received a facebook message from Sheila Mays’ account that said “pay back, (expletive). (Expletive) up my family now its yours.”
May testified only she and Godbolt had access to her Facebook account and that Godbolt had in the past posted status updates to her account.
May also testified that Godbolt owned several guns, including a pistol and two large rifles. She said he had coerced her into signing the necessary paperwork for at least one of the firearms purchased at a pawn shop. She said she did not want to help purchase the firearm, but that she feared Godbolt and did not want the situation to escalate into another fight.
Under cross-examination, defense attorney Alison Steiner questioned whether May knew Godbolt would become angry about issues related to their family and child custody because of a rough upbringing marked by familiar dysfunction, including the divorce of his parents before his birth and the murder of his father as a young boy.
May testified she knew Godbolt had a difficult relationship with family stemming from his past, but that she’d also made it clear to Godbolt that he would not be permitted to control their family or kids.
“I told him many times, not just that night,” May said. “He could not have control of the family.”
She added that many issues incited a violent anger in Godbolt, who May said would physically attack other men for so much as looking at or speaking to her in front of him.
“A man could look at me, he’d get angry. He we’d beat him up,” May said. “I called the police because I was afraid of him.”
Steiner asked May if she ever hit Godbolt in retaliation for the abuse.
“He was 350 lbs, I was scared to hit him or defend myself,” May said. “All I did was run away.”
The third day of testimony in the trial that’s expected to last two or three weeks resumes at 9 a.m. Monday.