A Taylorsville woman who in 2006 crashed her SUV through an office building and struck her estranged husband twice had been taking too much Xanax and was "not in her right mind," a defense attorney said Tuesday, as trial got under way.
Brenda Christine White, 36, is charged with attempted murder and criminal mischief. Her attack on Jon Robert White received plenty of attention after news stations broadcast surveillance video of the wife driving into and maneuvering through the office building at 4021 S. 700 East in Salt Lake County.
"On that day, Brenda White's body was behind the wheel of that Ford Explorer," defense attorney Jason Schatz conceded to jurors in 3rd District Court. "What's in dispute is why this happened."
White's case had been caught up in appeals for several years, as defense attorneys fought to use an extreme emotional distress defense. Last year, the Utah Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court judge to reconsider the merits of such a defense, only to have Judge William Barrett again deny the request.
On Tuesday, more than six years after the attack, Jon White took the witness stand and fought back tears as he recalled the events of April 26, 2006.
Brenda White arrived at the Woodland Towers building about noon, upset and looking for Jon White. As part of the divorce mediation, Brenda White was to receive the couple's home, on the condition that she refinance the mortgage in her own name, prosecutors said. On that day, she wanted Jon White to sign a quit claim deed on the property, which he refused to do.
Jon White said his ex-wife played the Poe song "Angry Johnny" on loop as they talked. When the chorus played "I want to kill you. I want to blow you away." Jon White said the woman locked her hands together like a gun and mocked shooting him.
"Don't you wish they could be true?" he testified the woman said of the lyrics.
As Jon White walked away from the argument, Brenda White said, "You are a parasite and I'm going to wipe you off the face of the earth," Jon White testified.
The husband said he was shaken up by the encounter and called his mother about it. When he left work that day, he decided to leave early and take a different path to his car than he normally took.
But as he walked to his car in a parking garage, he heard screeching tires and saw Brenda White's Ford Explorer.
"She looked at me with very cold, vicious eyes," he said.
He ran between two parked cars, then jumped over a concrete wall. He ran across a grassy knoll yelling for someone to call the police. Once he made it through the second set of glass doors, he thought for a moment he was safe.
Then Brenda White's Explorer crashed through both sets of glass doors and struck him.
Jon White said he was able to get up and run down a hallway, but Brenda White kept chasing him. The woman drove down a hallway and hit her ex-husband again in the lobby on the west side of the building.
Jon White tumbled over part of the SUV and was cut by glass. When he tried to get up again to run, his broken leg gave out and, instead, he hopped down another hallway. He hid in a service closet until a maintenance man found him.
Defense attorneys argue that Brenda White did not intend to kill the man. Schatz said Brenda White had been suffering from panic attacks and anxiety and was taking a number of medications to cope ever since the couple's November 2005 separation. And on that day, she took a large amount of Xanax.
"At some point in our lives we have all done or said something that we wouldn't have done if we were in total control of our body," he told jurors.
Schatz added, "By the time Jon White walked out, Brenda White wasn't in her right mind."
The trial is expected to continue through Thursday.