DeKalb jury's task: accident or murder in designer's death?

Dennis Allaben killed his 43-year-old wife, Maureen. He has admitted that.

The question left for a DeKalb County jury of 10 men and two women is did he kill her intentionally or was it an accident?

“This is not a who did it? He did it,” Assistant District Attorney Pat Jackson said. In her closing statements, Jackson said Maureen Allaben’s death was planned even while surrounded by bizarre aspects.

However, defense lawyer Steven Frey argued that his client made “some decisions I, quite frankly, don’t understand,” but he never meant to strangle her last year on Jan. 3.

The jury will begin deliberating Thursday whether Dennis Allaben, 47, is guilty of malice murder, felony murder and aggravated assault, but the jury will have the option of deciding whether Dennis Allaben is guilty of the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter

The prosecution began its case Tuesday and rested Wednesday. Frey called two character witnesses, Dennis Allaben's partners in a company that tested underground tanks, and he rested.

Maureen Allaben was an effervescent set designer for “The Mo’Nique Show on BET,” and also a well-known food stylist who prepared displays for advertising photographs. Yet her marriage was troubled, the prosecutor said.

Dennis Allaben wanted control over her as she achieved more financial independence, Jackson said. Dennis Allaben also insisted his wife was trying to poison or drug him, and was stalking him through GPS and computer monitoring, but there was no testimony related to those claims.

"That night he wanted to have a discussion with his wife, but she refused," Jackson said.

Maureen Allaben was killed by someone who stood behind her and put a choke hold on her, DeKalb County Chief Medical Examiner Gerald Gowitt said Wednesday. Her body was wrapped in a blanket, secured with duct tape and tossed in the bed of Dennis Allaben's pickup truck.

Dennis Allaben next drove to Virginia to leave his son, 7, and daughter, 8, with his brother and Jill Allaben, his brother's wife. Dennis Allaben told his sister-in-law he had killed his wife, Jill Allaben testified.

He also told his children he had killed their mother, Jill Allaben said.

Dennis Allaben later returned to the Clayton County home of a friend, and Allaben told a neighbor of his friend, a Clayton County police officer, that he had killed his wife and she was in the truck.

Gowitt, the medical examiner, said the dead woman's body was frozen after it had been in the bed of the truck for two frigid days.

“He thought Maureen Allaben’s body couldn’t speak from the grave,” Jackson said. “It spoke volumes.”