Investigators have long suspected Claud “Tex” McIver intentionally shot and killed his business executive wife Diane last September as they rode in their Ford Expedition near Piedmont Park. On Thursday, seven months of suspicion finally translated into a murder indictment against the Atlanta attorney.
A Fulton County grand jury dropped the hammer on McIver, who was jailed on Wednesday after a judge revoked his bond following the discovery of yet another gun, this one in his sock drawer. McIver, 74, is charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and three counts of influencing witnesses. The charges suggest McIver meant to kill his wife.
TIMELINE: Events in the Tex McIver saga
The indictment marks a stunning fall for a man who was once a respected labor lawyer with deep ties to the Georgia’s ruling Republican Party. Tex and Diane McIver were seen as a wealthy and connected power couple with homes in Atlanta and Putnam County.
In building their case, prosecutors seem focused on McIver’s behavior after the shooting. According to the charging documents, McIver tried to interfere with the investigation by urging at least one witness to lie and to stop cooperating with police.
McIver instructed Patricia “Dani Jo” Carter, a friend of his wife who was driving the couple when the shooting occurred, to tell police she wasn’t there, the indictment says.
Less than two weeks later, on October 6, the indictment alleges, McIver left a voicemail with Carter’s husband, Thomas Carter, telling him that Dani Jo needed to stop cooperating with police because her statements placed him “at imminent risk of immediate incarceration.” He then asked Thomas Carter to delete that voicemail, prosecutors say.
Then there’s the bizarre nature of the shooting itself.
McIver has said he shot and killed his 63-year-old wife while they were driving to their Buckhead condo from their Putnam County ranch. He said it was an accident. McIver said the couple pulled their .38 caliber pistol from the SUV’s center console when they happened upon what they thought was a dicey part of Atlanta. Shortly thereafter, he said he nodded off in the back seat, awoke suddenly and inadvertently pulled the trigger.
Stephen Maples, McIver’s attorney, said his client was lying back in the back seat of the vehicle sleeping. He said there was no way McIver could have known the position of his wife or fired a shot from his lap that would purposely strike a vital organ.
“I’m sure the DA and the state will try to wrap it up with an argument and not the evidence,” Maples said.
But Fulton prosecutor Clint Rucker, speaking Wednesday during McIver’s bond revocation hearing, made it clear he wasn’t buying the defense’s story.
“A bunch of malarkey, ” Rucker said. “Guns just don’t go off. You got to pull the trigger.”
Dunwoody attorney Esther Panitch, who is not involved in the case, said that, while the new revelations aren’t likely enough to bring a conviction, they raise serious questions about McIver’s conduct.
“An innocent person doesn’t ask people to stop talking to police,” said Panitch, arguing from the prosecution’s vantage point.
McIver is also accused of asking Bill Crane, acting as his spokesman, to retract unspecified statements made to the media. Five days after the shooting, Crane told reporters that when the McIvers had pulled off the Downtown Connector, Tex McIver feared they had happened upon a Black Lives Matter protest. That, Crane said, led McIver to pull out the gun that shortly thereafter fired the deadly bullet into his wife after their SUV hit a bump.
On Thursday, Crane confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that McIver and Maples had asked him to withdraw statements he made to the media. But Crane declined to specify what exactly they asked him to retract.
“Those stories had been in … hundreds of outlets. They were all over the internet,” Crane said Thursday. “You cannot put the genie back in the bottle.”
Crane, who testified for about 90 minutes Wednesday before the grand jury, said he declined to take back his comments to the media “because what had been said to me had been said to others.”
“I did as honest and accurate a job of sharing what had been shared with me,” he said.
Legal observers said they suspect the prosecution has additional evidence against McIver they are withholding. Atlanta criminal defense lawyer Bruce Morris said he believes the revelations contained in Thursday’s indictment are unlikely to secure a conviction on malice murder.
“From what’s been in the public so far, it does not appear an any way, shape or form to be a killing that was intended,” Morris said. “It’s always possible they have evidence we’re not aware of. Without that, I’m surprised they’d bring that charge.”
The charges on witness influencing “provide no evidence of an intentional shooting or murder,” he said.
Atlanta criminal defense lawyer Jeff Brickman, a former DeKalb County district attorney, said he, too, was surprised prosecutors believe they can build a care for malice.
“We can assume the investigation has uncovered something to convince them this was intentional,” Brickman said.
Maples said he believes the case will be decided by forensic evidence from the interior of the SUV.
“It will support only one theory — it was an accident,” he said.
Thursday’s indictment capped a dizzying series of events that began last week with the bond revocation hearing that stretched over three days. The hearing was set after investigators with the DA’s office found a Glock pistol in McIver’s sock drawer while searching his residence for financial documents earlier this month.
McIver’s legal team maintained their client does not know how the gun got there. Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ordered him to jail though he suggested he was open to placing McIver on house arrest under the conditions that he be fitted with an ankle monitor and have no access to guns.
At that time, Atlanta police had charged McIver with reckless conduct and involuntary manslaughter, suggesting he didn’t mean to pull the trigger. Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors wanted to put their client behind bars to “sweat him” for several months so he would be more inclined to take a plea deal.
Now it’s unclear when, or if, McIver will get out of jail. He’s being held without the possibility of bond until his case is assigned to a Fulton Superior Court judge. He’ll be arraigned shortly thereafter.
“Mr. McIver has taken Herculean efforts to comply with his bond,” defense co-counsel William Hill said Wednesday. “Mr. McIver is not a threat to the public. He is a 74-year-old man. He cannot survive in jail.”
— Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this article.
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