Donnell Price's attorney admits that his client killed his estranged wife Tarina in December 2011.
But in opening statements in Dauphin County court Monday, attorney Ari Weitzman insisted the murder was not premeditated, as the prosecution alleges, but rather a spontaneous act of passion.
Price, 41, is accused of stabbing Tarina 37 times on December 14, 2011 in her house on South Sycamore Street. Prosecutor Jennifer Gettle said in court that Tarina fought off Donnell and ran outside the home, where he shot her to death.
Tarina, 33, was a popular eighth grade teacher at Rowland School in the Harrisburg District. Several family members and friends attended the first day of the trial.
"She was just a beautiful, beautiful woman inside and out," said Angela Parker-Quarles, Tarina's godmother. "She was an educator, so she loved kids and she valued education."
Tarina had three sons between 5 and 10 years old. We're told the oldest boy is with his father, the two younger brothers are with Tarina's mother.
The loss is palpable.
"It's beyond words to be honest with you," said Quarles. "When I think about the boys that makes it the most difficult. I think that the biggest thing now, what Tarina would want, is for people to know if they're in a relationship where they're feeling like losing control or being controlled that they get help and they get help fast."
Price is facing life without a chance of parole if convicted. It's unknown if he'll take the stand in his own defense. The trial is expected to run into next week.
A school librarian testified Monday that Donnell made several harassing and threatening phone calls directed toward Tarina on the day of the murder.
Tarina was an educated woman and caring mother, but fell victim to domestic violence.
"There is no stereotype for domestic violence," said Jen Storm of Dauphin County Victim/Witness Assistance. "It's pervasive through all races and cultures. It is everybody. We have to be vigilant about creating awareness about domestic violence because anyone can be an offender and anyone can fall victim to it. Love is a very complex issue. When you have love and children and finances co-mingling and you have threats of abuse or a start to domestic violence, it's hard for someone to recognize that as abuse and knowing where to turn to get help."
Storm recommends seeking out counseling and professional help if you, or someone you know, is in an abusive relationship.