Dunwoody woman stands by self defense claim

Lona Scott did not budge Wednesday while giving high-stakes testimony from the witness stand.

The 47-year-old mother of two stood by her claim she gunned down her husband in self defense as they stood naked in the master bedroom of their Dunwoody home two years ago.

Scott said she had no choice.

"I didn't want to shoot Cliff," she testified. "I didn't want to shoot him once. ... But I knew he was going to kill me."

Scott, wearing a long-sleeved white blouse and black skirt, stood before a rapt jury and re-enacted what she said happened in the pre-dawn hours of March 4, 2008. With her lawyer Brian Steel filling in as her late husband, they moved across the courtroom as if it was the Scotts' bedroom.

At about 3 a.m. that morning, she testified, both she and her husband, Cliff Scott, were in bed when she told him she was going to go through with their divorce.

Cliff Scott, a muscular Georgia Tech grad who ran a successful trucking business in Forest Park, put her in a choke hold until she called out the name of their daughter who was sleeping in the bedroom next door, she testified. When he released her, she said, she tumbled out of bed, took her pistol out of the dresser and went across the room to get her purse and keys, intending take their daughter and leave.

But Cliff Scott blocked her exit, she said. When she told him she had a gun, he said, "Your having that gun gives me permission to kill you, [expletive]," she testified. When he charged, she fired once, likely striking him in the chest.

Standing in front of the jury box, Scott then began backpedalling past the prosecution and defense tables. She raised her hands as if holding a gun and began firing repeatedly.

"He was gaining on me," she exclaimed. "I shot and I shot and I screamed."

Police found eight shell casings from her .22-caliber Ruger semiautomatic target pistol on the bedroom floor. Six rounds were found in her husband's body and a seventh found lodged in the floor behind him. Two live rounds were left in the Ruger's magazine. Scott, 42, was shot once in the chest, twice in the elbows, twice in the upper back and once in the head.

DeKalb County prosecutors are trying for a second time to convict Lona Scott of murder. In February, a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, causing a mistrial. In the retrial, testimony and closing arguments are expected Thursday.

Prosecutors contend Scott, who graduated from Parkview High School in 1981, executed her unarmed husband to gain control of his $5 million estate.

The Scotts married in late February 2000, when she was pregnant with their first of two daughters. He had given her the engagement ring a few weeks before on Valentine's Day, the same day Cliff Scott's mistress testified on Tuesday that she had sex with him.

It wasn't until October 2006 when Lona Scott found out her husband was having an affair. She filed for divorce two months later, serving him the papers while he was at his lawyer's office filling out his will. She testified he soon telephoned her and said, "You have initiated an act of war and I was built for war."

In August 2007, the couple reached a reconciliation agreement, with Cliff Scott agreeing to put $1 million into her personal bank account, give her $50,000 cash, pay $20,000 of her legal bills and sign over the title of their $900,000 home. The agreement, finalized three months later, called for Scott to make good on the pact within seven days.

But he never did. Instead, he began selling his assets and properties and moving his money into an offshore account in the Bahamas, according to testimony. That was Lona Scott's motive to kill her husband, Assistant District Attorney John Melvin told jurors during opening statements.

But on Wednesday, Scott said she did not know her husband was hiding his money from her.

"Money was not what I was thinking about," Scott testified, when asked about the shooting. "I just wanted to live. I just wanted to get out of that room alive."