The widow of murder victim Benjamin Oxley choked back sobs Thursday as she recalled being awakened by the shotgun blast that killed her husband as he slept next to her in their Wildhorse home on Feb. 21, 2008.
"I remember hearing a noise," Melissa Oxley testified at a preliminary hearing for the man accused of murdering her husband.
"My ears were ringing, I thought I was dreaming. I smelled gun smoke. I tried to wake Ben. I nudged him and said, 'Honey, there's something to check on.'"
When her husband did not respond, Oxley said she walked down to hallway and saw the front door to their home was open.
Alarmed, Oxley said she went back to try to wake her husband, but realized that he had been shot.
She raced to her then-6-year-old stepdaughter's bedroom, closed the door and called 911. It was approximately 3:30 a.m. Feb. 21.
Melissa Oxley was one of several witnesses called Thursday at a preliminary hearing for James Matlean, 23, charged with murder in the first degree with a deadly weapon.
If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.
Matlean was charged with the crime in June, more than two years after Oxley was killed.
He is represented by attorney Ken Stover while Chief Deputy District Attorney Tom Gregory is prosecutor.
The preliminary hearing is to decide if there is enough evidence to determine that the crime was committed and Matlean is the likely suspect. It does not determine innocence or guilt.
Matlean is the ex-boyfriend of Oxley's former wife, Dawn.
Dawn Oxley's son Devon Mitchell testified Thursday that the night before the shooting, his mother and Matlean were intoxicated and talking about killing Ben Oxley so she could regain custody of their daughter and stop paying child support.
"They wanted him dead," Mitchell said. "She wanted James Matlean to go out and kill him. They were talking about the custody. When they got drunk, they went overboard. They both were under the influence."
Mitchell testified that his mother wanted her ex-husband "just to die in a random spontaneous burst of flame or for James Matlean to just go out and kill him."
Mitchell said he went to bed between 11 p.m.-midnight and when he got up the next morning "the cops were at our door and said Ben was dead, and had been murdered."
"It left me speechless. The next morning, he turns out to be actually dead. It was not how I expected the day to go," Mitchell said.
Ben and Dawn Oxley, who divorced in 2004, continued to go to court over custody of their daughter. In 2007, Dawn Oxley told investigators her ex-husband won primary custody and she was ordered to pay $250 a month for child support and medical benefits.
According to reports, Benjamin Oxley did not have a criminal record, but was contacted in a June 2007 battery investigation involving his ex-wife. The incident was classified as a mutual domestic battery. No charges were filed, and both parties agreed to leave each other alone.
Dawn Oxley told The Record-Courier in an interview the day of her ex-husband's death she hadn't seen him for weeks.
She said their only contact had been to arrange visitation with their daughter.
Dawn Oxley is serving six months in Douglas County jail for probation violations stemming from driving under the influence and domestic battery convictions. Her release date is set for Feb. 8.
The district attorney's office has said she is not a suspect in the murder.
Testimony continued Thursday afternoon.