Volunteer firefighter Timothy Armstrong was just getting his kids ready for bed on a Friday night when suddenly his pager went off.
“Female shot in struggle over a gun. Gunshot wound to the chest."
Armstrong jumped in his car and headed to the New Lowell fire station.
Arriving at the Brooks home minutes later, he waited for police to give the all-clear signal, then went in the front door.
On the floor of the foyer beside a gun, 50-year-old Deena Brooks was not moving.
“She lay on her back, I could see the small hole in her upper right chest,” Armstrong told a jury Friday in a trial that is nearing its end.
On trial for first-degree murder, 52-year-old Mitchell Brooks has told the jury that he meant to commit suicide, but his wife tried to get the gun from him when it accidentally went off May 24, 2013.
But the Crown alleges Brooks deliberately shot his wife, a lab technologist, because he was enraged that she wanted a divorce.
Armstrong said he and two other volunteer firefighters took turns performing CPR for several minutes. He said he noticed the woman’s husband in the hallway.
“The only thing he said was something about his daughter at a prom,” Armstrong said. “He seemed more calm than expected. … I’ve been to a lot of VSAs (vital signs absent) and if there are family members around, usually they are hanging over our shoulders shouting at us to save the person.”
It was the night of their daughter’s high-school prom and the jury has heard that the couple’s daughter had texted her mother an hour earlier, asking for a ride home.
“On my way,” Deena Brooks answered her.
But she never made it out of the house.
Mitchell Brooks’s doctor, Maureen Heitzner, of Newmarket, also testified. She told the jury she was treating him for depression in the weeks before his wife was shot.
“Mitchell was crying and he continued to be teary throughout the visits. He said things were terrible at home,” Heitzner said.
But she said Brooks promised her that he wouldn’t go through with suicide.
“He said he had suicidal thoughts about dying, but then he thinks about his daughters,” Heitzner said. “He said he had a phenomenal relationship with his kids.”
Earlier this week, Brooks wept on the witness stand as he told the jury that he meant to shoot himself.
“I wish I had committed suicide because if I had then my girls would still be with their mother,” said Brooks, tearful as he spoke.
“Did you plan to kill Deena that night?” asked his lawyer, Kim Miles.
“No. Never. I would never take her away from our kids,” Brooks answered. “The only person I intended to die that night was me.”
But Crown attorney David Russell questioned Brooks about why, just weeks before, he renewed a life-insurance policy, which stipulated suicide would negate the contract.
“It was just a diversion from the way I was feeling,” Brooks explained.
“I don’t get it,” said the Crown. “That sounds like a person who wants to live.”
“It meant nothing,” Brooks replied.
The accused told the jury that on the night of the shooting, he went to his shop and loaded a handgun with a plan to shoot himself, but his wife asked him to come back into the house.
Brooks said he quickly shoved the gun, with safety switch undone, into his back pocket and went into the house. In the foyer, he said his wife noticed the gun and tried to get it away from him.
“I held it over my head so she couldn’t get it,” Brooks said. “She grabbed my arm and she tried to bite me … we fell off balance and the gun had gone off.”
“Who pulled the trigger?” the Crown asked.
“I didn’t pull the trigger … it must have been her thumb.”
The trial is expected to wrap up on Monday.