Lone witness to shooting says Tex McIver asked her to lie to police

Within 20 minutes of their arrival at Emory University Hospital, his wife Diane fighting for her life, Claud "Tex" McIver was thinking about what he'd tell police.

And it wasn’t going to be the truth, testified Dani Jo Carter, who was driving the couple’s Ford Expedition when Diane McIver was fatally shot by her husband on Sept. 25, 2016.

RELATED: Witness in McIver shooting speaks for first time

“I don’t trust these guys,” Carter said Monday, quoting Tex McIver. She said he told her he didn’t want her to get “wrapped up in this,” adding, “I‘ve seen how these things can go down.”

As McIver dialed his attorney, Steve Maples, he said to Carter, “I know this doesn’t look good.”

IN-DEPTH: Who’s who in the Tex McIver murder trial

Patricia Diane Carter, who goes by Dani Jo, a close friend of Diane McIver, provided key testimony during day 5 of the McIver murder trial at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, March 19, 2018. (REANN HUBER/REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM)

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The testimony from Carter, who was close friends with Diane McIver, seemed to give the prosecution new life after a rough first week, affirming a key question that's dogged Tex McIver since the shooting: If he didn't intend to kill his wife, as he insists, why did he feel the need to lie about what happened?

Carter, assured and composed on the stand, offered the most direct evidence yet that Tex McIver had changed his story about that fatal night — or had at least thought about it. Carter was at the wheel of the SUV to help drive the couple home from their Putnam County ranch where the trio had spent the weekend. She recounted the moments and days after the gun went off inside the SUV near Piedmont Park, striking Diane McIver in the back and leading to her death.

Claud “Tex” McIver is shown during day 5 of the McIver murder trial at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, March 19, 2018. (REANN HUBER/REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM)

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At the hospital emergency room, Carter described being “taken aback” by McIver’s request to tell law enforcement she wasn’t involved in the incident, but had come to the hospital as “a friend of the family.”

“There was no reason for me to be at Emory Hospital, where I never go, with no car, 15 minutes after his wife had been shot,” Carter testified. “How was I supposed to claim that?”

But McIver persisted, she said.

“I can’t lie,” she said.

Two nights later, Carter said McIver asked her to share her recollections of the shooting. He took copious notes, she testified.

Allan Craig Stringer, a close friend of the McIver’s, gives his testimony during day 5 of the McIver murder trial at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, March 19, 2018. (REANN HUBER/REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM)

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“Those were my memories. You just need your memories,” Carter said she told McIver.

Carter also disputed elements of McIver’s statements to police about why he took the gun out as they rode through Atlanta. There were no groups of people gathered on Edgewood Drive or on any part of the drive into Midtown, she said, adding she never felt threatened.

Carter says she was driving as the McIvers’ SUV pulled into Atlanta. They encountered traffic on the Downtown Connector and Carter wanted to get off the interstate to avoid it. Diane McIver told Carter to get off at the exit for Edgewood-Auburn Avenue and she did.

As they were exiting the interstate, Tex McIver chimed in from the backseat.

“Girls, I wish you wouldn’t have done this. This is a really bad area,” Tex McIver said. “I wish you had stayed on 85.”

McIver has said that’s why he requested his .38 revolver, which was in the center console of the SUV, wrapped in a plastic bag.

“Darling, hand me my gun,” he asked his wife, according to Carter.

They continued, uneventfully, down Piedmont Avenue. The two women chatted about tattooed eyebrows and the Clermont Lounge. Carter said they were stopped at a red light, at either 12th or 14th Street, when she heard a “big boom.”

“I thought there was an explosion somewhere,” she said. Diane McIver turned towards the back seat, where her husband was holding his gun.

“Tex, what did you do?” Diane McIver said, according to Carter. Tex responded, “The gun discharged.”

A few moments later, Diane McIver realized she had been hit. “Tex, you shot me,” Carter recalled Diane telling her husband.

Tex McIver directed her to Emory Hospital. Diane’s condition steadily worsened, Carter testified.

“She started making noises I’ve never heard before,” she said. “I thought she was dying.” She soon lost consciousness.

Tex, said Carter, was holding her head up, repeating her name. As Carter ran red lights to get to the hospital as quickly as possible, she said Tex McIver advised her to “be careful. There might be people out there with baby carriages.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action news will bring you LIVE gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Tex McIver murder trial. Check back on ajc.com each day for a live blog and video from the courtroom. Visit myajc.com/crime/ for previous coverage of the case and a link to our Breakdown podcast.

Before Carter took the stand, a co-worker and friend of Diane McIver’s surprised the prosecution, sharing yet another version of events from Tex about the night of the shooting.

Craig Stringer said the following morning, McIver told him that Diane and Dani Jo Carter had been involved in a car accident on Hill Street in downtown Atlanta. Diane passed away overnight, Tex McIver said, according to Stringer.

Soon after, Stringer heard from Diane’s boss, Billy Corey, that the 64-year-old businesswoman was accidentally shot in the back and killed by her husband. When he called seeking an explanation, Stringer said Tex told him “he didn’t want to get you involved in it.”

“I did not go away happy,” Stringer testified.

Dani Jo Carter’s testimony will resume Tuesday morning. Prosecutors are expected to play a tape of the voicemail Tex McIver left for Carter’s husband urging her to stop talking to police.

What happened Monday: Dani Jo Carter, the only witness to the shooting, testified that Tex McIver asked her to tell police she wasn't in the car when the shooting occurred. She refused.

What's next: Prosecutors are expected to play a voicemail Tex McIver left for Dani Jo Carter's husband urging her to stop talking to police.