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Jurors to Hear Mom’s Call to Police

April 30, 2002 GMT

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DALLAS (AP) _ They were sounds from a nightmare. In a telephone recording, a jury heard screams, cries and hyperventilating from a woman in agony as she waited to learn the fate of her two young daughters.

The recording captures Mary Jean Pearle on her cellular phone last May, telling a police officer she feared her ex-husband had just killed the girls. The officer is heard trying to calm a hysterical Pearle, who is waiting outside her ex-husband’s apartment.

``You always wonder what people go through when something like this happens,″ Pearle tells Highland Park officer Catherine Justice. ``You never think it will be you.″

Jurors in the murder trial of John Battaglia heard the recording and other psychiatric testimony Monday before both sides rested in the punishment phase.

Last week, the jurors convicted the 46-year-old accountant of capital murder in the shooting deaths of 6-year-old Liberty and 9-year-old Faith.

After closing arguments Tuesday, jurors were expected to start deliberating whether Battaglia should receive the death penalty or life in prison.

At the time of the May 2 shootings, Pearle was trying to have Battaglia arrested for violating a protective order stemming from an assault against her. In the tape, Justice tells Pearle that Battaglia learned of the arrest warrant and thought he would be arrested as he picked up the girls for dinner.

That night, Pearle returned a call from Battaglia and heard Faith say on the speaker phone, ``Why are you putting daddy in jail?″ Then she heard, ``No, no daddy, don’t,″ followed by five gunshots.

Pearle called police, who broke into Battaglia’s apartment. In the recording, Pearle talks to Justice as she waits to hear what they found.

``Oh my God, please don’t let it be, please Jesus,″ Pearle tells Justice. ``Faith, Faith, Faith. I can’t believe he would kill that angel. But he just wouldn’t be shooting it off for kicks.″

There is silence and then screaming when an officer tells Pearle both girls have been shot to death.

Battaglia calmly followed the transcript as the tape was played.

Battaglia’s attorneys have presented testimony from psychiatrists who say he suffered from a bipolar disorder characterized by extreme manic and depressive behavior. The psychiatrists said Battaglia would not be a future danger if he were on medication.


Dr. Jay Crowder, chief of forensic psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, testified Monday that the disorder, accompanied by an immature personality disorder and substance abuse, made Battaglia irritable, impulsive and lacking in judgment on the night of the shootings.

Battaglia also believed his daughters’ lives were miserable, Crowder said, adding, ``He was projecting onto them the hopelessness he felt about himself.″

A psychiatrist for the prosecution testified Battaglia’s crime was fueled by anger and retribution, not mental illness.