When the bedroom door burst open, Monique Gregory said she turned from her lover to face a jealous husband pointing a .45 caliber handgun at her head.
"He stood at the door and said, 'I'm going to kill you, bitch,'" the 26-year-old woman testifed yesterday, shaking violently on the witness stand in Loudoun County's domestic relations court. "There was no point in moving, I was as good as dead."
Monique Gregory, a riding instructor from Middleburg, escaped from the dramatic Aug. 20 confrontation that left her lover dead. She managed to bolt from her husband and run to a nearby house where she smashed both arms through windows seeking safety, receiving wounds that took 300 stitches to close.
Howard LaBove, the 30-year-old Middleburg horse dealer whose house and bed she was sharing that night, died from an undetermined number of bullet wounds. The crime is the talk of Virginia's horse country where all the principals in the shooting were well known.
Monique's husband, 28-year-old Theodore Gregory, who made his living in Middleburg training horses, sits in a small Leesburg jail awaiting trial on murder until Tuesday, when Loudoun prosecutors decided to drop the charge, at least temporarily.
"I'm not going into a murder trial without my key witness," said Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney Thomas Horne yesterday. Since Mrs. Gregory is the only witness to the killing and spouses may not testify against one another, Horne said he decided against pressing the LaBove murder charge. "That case will someday be tried, rest asssured of that," said Horne.
Yesterday the Gregorys, who had separated in May, confronted each other in a small, drab domestic relations courtroom where Theodore faced a preliminary hearing on three felony charges growing out of the shooting incident and a trial on two misdeameanors that grew out of an earlier incident with his wife.
Later, in a telephone interview, Gregory said he was innocent of all the charges and accused Loudoun authorities of filing the various charges against him because they "didn't have enough eveidence" to support the murder charge.
In the aging Leesburg courtroom his estranged wife told of her husband's anger as they separated. "He took the wedding rings off my fingers," said Monique, whose dark hair and complexion contrasted greatly with the light hair and pallor of her estranged husband.
Monique Gregory testified that her husband was jealous enough to assault her in a fit of rage on a Middleburg Road last June, a misdemeanor charge for which Gregory was convicted yesterday. He also was jealous enough, said his wife, to follow her and LaBove from a dinner party at a Middleburg cafe on the night of the slaying to LaBove's house three miles away.
She also told Judge A. Burke Hertz that 20 minutes after she and LaBove "took off our clothes and got in bed" they were surprised by Gregory, who stood in the backlit doorway pointing his gun at the couple lying together in the darkened room.
After repeating for the defense attorney the words she claims Gregory spoke -- "I'm going to kill you, bitch" -- Gregory said her husband fired his pistol but did not hit her or LaBove though he was only 10 feet from them.
After the first shot, she testified, LaBove pushed her to the side and lunged toward Gregory. "No one's going to come in here and kill her," Monique said LaBove shouted.
Gregory said that LaBove caught at least two bullets before he managed to pin her husband against the back of a couch.
"Mr. LaBove hollared, 'Run, run,'" said Gregory, adding that she fled past the struggling men without stopping for clothes and raced to another tenant house on Wolver Hill, the horse farm owned by Oliver Iselin, where LaBove lived.
"Halfway to the tenant's house I looked back and saw light coming out of the gun. He was pointing the gun right at me," said Gregory. Frantic she smashed a window pane with both arms, reached in to unlock a door and raced inside to face a father and son both pointing loaded rifles at her.
"They were scared," said Gregory, who needed 200 stitches in her left arm and another 100 stitches in her right arm, injuries she displayed to Hertz during the two-hour court proceeding.
Gregory did not testify at the hearing and his lawyers did not dispute his presence at the scene of the shooting. Instead they attempted to question Mrs. Gregory about other relationships. Alexandria attorney Blair Howard was repeatedly halted in his attempts to question Mrs. Gregory about those relationships by Hertz, who judged the line of questioning was not pertinent to a preliminary hearing. Howard maintained that Gregory's social life provided cause for "provocation" and "hot blood."
After Hertz ordered Gregory held for grand jury action on three felony charges, attempting to commit first degree murder, breaking and entering with intent to commit murder while armed with a deadly weapon, and use of a firearm in the commission of attempted murder, he was tried and convicted by the judge on two misdemeanors.
Those charges, assault and battery and destruction of private property, resulted from another late-night incident last June when Gregory allegedly forced his wife off a road, hit her once in the chest and ripped her purse. Sentencing on those two convictions was delayed until late October.
Any action on the murder charge said Horne yesterday, would have to wait until the Gregorys are divorced said prosecutor Horne.
Gregory declined in the telephone interview to discuss the shooting incident. "All I can say is that what's been written in the newspaper has been pretty much one-side," he said, adding that his plea is innocent, and "it'll end up way, I hope."