MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBS 2) — A father stands accused of gunning down his ex-girlfriend at the YMCA family center in Montclair. The trial opened Wednesday with prosecutors saying he is a cold-blooded killer, who murdered her in front of their children during a swimming lesson.
Kenneth Duckett came face-to-face with frightened parents who were inside the YMCA two years ago when prosecutors said the 39-year-old walked into the pool observation area and shot his ex-girlfriend dead.
Duckett’s 11-year-old daughter was next to her mom, watching her 4-year-old brother take swim lessons.
“She said you’re not going to do that. She leaned back in her [seat] and he was over the table. Next thing, I heard the gunshots,” witness Dr. Alice Bexon said.
Bexon and her 7-month-old were in the observation room with Duckett’s 31-year-old ex-girlfriend, Monica Paul. She said she tried to comfort Paul’s daughter, who was visibly in shock.
“The child said ‘is my mom going to be okay?’ She’s not going to be okay. ‘Is she going to be okay?’” Bexon said.
Parents of a dozen kids taking swim lessons — most of them 3 and 5 — then described scrambling to get out of the observation room.
“I heard someone screaming that someone had a gun,” witness Gretchen Gowin said.
Paul’s family members had to hold back tears in court.
The defense doesn’t dispute witnesses’ details but said Duckett should face manslaughter charges instead of first-degree murder because he had no intention to kill his ex-girlfriend, but snapped when she told him their 4-year-old wasn’t their son.
As to the gun Duckett was carrying his attorney said he had it with him because bloods gang members had been threatening him.
If found guilty of first-degree murder, Duckett could spend the rest of his life in prison. A manslaughter charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
On Thursday his daughter is scheduled to testify.