“Kids, come over and say goodbye to your mom. She’s dying.”
Those were the chilling words spoken by Ty Rone Pitts of Bella Vista, whose voice is heard on a 911 call made shortly after he plunged an 18-inch knife into the heart of his live-in girlfriend, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday during opening statements at the man’s murder trial.
Stew Jankowitz, Shasta County senior deputy district attorney, said Pitts, 49, is heard on a 911 call beckoning the two young children of his girlfriend, RanDal Leigh Wert, 24, so they could say goodbye to their mother after he inflicted the last of five major knife wounds to her chest.
Three of those thrusts went out through her back, Jankowitz said.
“This isn’t a who done it,” said Jankowitz. He said Pitts has freely admitted to killing Wert following a heated argument at their home.
According to court documents, Pitts told a sheriff’s detective that he and Wert, who worked as a shift manager at a fast-food restaurant in Redding, had been arguing the night of the stabbing and that “she continued to ‘needle’ and ‘nag’ ” at him.
He then pulled an 18-inch “coconut knife” from the top of the refrigerator, and he nicked her arm with it, the court documents show, adding that Wert then told Pitts she was “going to call the cops and he was going to prison.”
At that point, it says, Pitts began to stab Wert in the upper torso.
Jankowitz, who is asking the eight-woman, four-man Shasta County jury to return a first-degree-murder conviction against Pitts, re-created the fatal events of Aug. 15.
Pitts inflicted the final stab wound after the bleeding and terrified Wert tried to run away from him but tripped and fell down in the driveway of their Faith Avenue residence, Jankowitz said.
Pitts then rolled Wert onto her back and, holding the 18-inch knife with both hands, raised it high over his head and plunged it into her heart, Jankowitz said
‘”That night he was violent; he was vicious,” he said.
And, Jankowitz told the jury, at least one of Wert’s two young children saw the stabbing.
A California Highway Patrol officer who was dispatched to the scene was close enough to hear the screaming, but she waited for about nine minutes before backup arrived.
By then, Wert lay bleeding to death in the driveway.
Although it’s not disputed that Pitts fatally stabbed Wert, Shasta County senior deputy public defender Max Ruffcorn Sr. hopes the jury, once it hears all the evidence, will reject a first-degree-murder conviction against his client.
Instead, he said, he wants jurors to consider a verdict of voluntary manslaughter, saying the killing was done in the heat of passion and was not a premeditated act.
“He just snapped,” Ruffcorn said, saying Pitts was angry at his live-in girlfriend of five years because she told him that she had been unfaithful and continued to taunt and argue with him.
“That doesn’t excuse it, but it does help to explain his behavior,” Ruffcorn said.
The stabbing also occurred on the night that the family had returned home following Pitts’ brother’s funeral in Marysville, Ruffcorn and Jankowitz said.
During the drive home, Jankowitz said, Pitts took an anti-anxiety pill, identified as Klonopin, to calm himself.
But the medication, he said, made Pitts groggy, forcing Wert to take over the driving.
When they returned home, he said, Pitts wanted to drive to a store to buy cigarettes, and they began to argue because Wert did not want him to drive in his condition.
The fight eventually escalated into violence, Jankowitz said, adding that Pitts warned his girlfriend, who had been drinking, to “shut up or something bad’s going to happen.”
In his opening statements, Ruffcorn told jurors that Pitts, who tried to remain clean and sober, was profoundly affected by his brother’s sudden death, saying it made him “fall off the wagon” and smoke methamphetamine and marijuana.
The murder trial is expected to last three to four weeks.