She was in bed with her lover. Her husband was standing in the doorway with a gun. And the barrel seemed to be aiming at a spot just between her eyes.
"I sort of froze," testified Monique Gregory yesterday during the second day of a trial in Loudoun County Circuit Court dealing with last August's shooting. "I figured I was going to die."
Gregory, a 26-year-old riding instructor from Middleburg, escaped the violent confrontation with her estranged husband, Theodore Gregory, by fleeing naked across a farm field. Breaking into a nearby tenant house through the window, she slashed both arms, requiring 300 stitches.
Gregory's lover, Howard LaBove, 30, who trained horses in Middleburg, was shot to death. Now Theodore Gregory is being tried on three felony counts resulting from the love triangle violence that has shocked many in Middleburg and the surrounding horse farms.
"I tried to warn [LaBove]," testified Joe Fiore, a friend of all three parties to the incident. "I said you better stay away from that girl [Monique Gregory] because you're going to get killed."
Fiore said yesterday he cautioned LaBove five weeks before the shooting after he discovered two pistols in Theodore Gregory's pickup truck.
"I thought I had scared him [LaBove] pretty good," said Fiore, who described Ted Gregory as a quiet person who was devastated when the couple separated last May. Fiore described Monique Gregory as a lady. LaBove, he said, was Middleburg's ultimate ladies man.
Fiore was one of a dozen witnesses to testify yesterday, including psychistrists, law enforcement officers and friends of the Gregorys and LaBove -- all three of whom were well known in the horse barns and riding tracks that dominate Middleburg.
But it was the testimony of Monique Gregory, who trembled for most of the two hours she was on the stand, that produced the trial's most passionate outbursts.
During gentle questioning by Loudoun prosecutor Thomas T. Horne, Gregory reconstructed the events of the shooting on the night of Aug. 20.
After a birthday dinner in Middleburg with a half-dozen friends, including LaBove, Gregory said she followed LaBove to his cottage a few miles outside of Middleburg. Within 15 minutes of arriving, at approximately 10 p.m., she said, she and LaBove were in bed.
They had begun to make love when her husband "kicked open the door" and said, "I'm going to kill you, bitch," testified Gregory.
After the first shot was fired, she said, LaBove pushed her aside and charged at Gregory who was about seven feet from the bed. LaBove was shot three times in the chest but still managed to pin Theodore Gregory against a couch.
Nude, Monique Gregory fled from the cottage toward a tenant house on the same farm 50 yards away. During her flight, said Gregory, she saw her estranged husband shoot at her from the porch of the cottage and heard a second shot.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Blair Howard challenged her testimony on the sequence of events and details that appeared to conflict with statements she made during a preliminary hearing in September. At one point an obviously rattled Monique Gregory said, "I don't recall what I testified."
Howard repeatedly questioned Gregory about her relationship with LaBove. Gregory said she had not begun sleeping with LaBove until the beginning of July, two months after she separated from her husband. Howard earlier had produced a witness who suggested otherwise.
Shirley Ryan, the manager of Wolver Hill Farm where LaBove lived, testified that during the month of April he regularly observed a car belonging to Monique Gregory parked in LaBove's driveway. Often, he said, the car would remain overnight.
"I will swear absolutely on a stack of Bibles, on my mother's head, I never slept with that man [LaBove] until the first of July," said Gregory, rising from the witness stand. "It was not a cheap trick."
Theodore Gregory, who sat impassively through most of his wife's testimony in the county courthouse in Leesburg, has pleaded innocent on grounds of temporary insanity to the felony charges of attempted murder.
To illustrate Gregory's mental depression, the defense yesterday called to the witness stand Joe and Diane Fiore, who allowed Theodore Gregory to move into a spare bedroom of their apartment outside Middleburg during the first month after he and his wife separated.
Both of the Fiores described Gregory as despondent and obsessed with getting his wife back.
During one discussion with Gregory, said Diane Fiore, he said "he would love to kidnap her and take her to a mountain somewhere to talk sense to her, even if he had to tie her up."
Monique Gregory testified that her estranged husband assaulted her on three occasions after the couple's separation. Gregory was convicted of two misdemeanors in connection with one of those incidents last summer when he allegedly forced his wife off a road one night, hit her in the chest and ripped her purse.
Yesterday, Monique Gregory said she loved LaBove and hoped to marry him. But Joe Fiore said LaBove had told him at least a week before his death that he planned to break off his relationship with her.
When asked if LaBove dated anyone besides Monique Gregory, Fiore responded that LaBove was "the best" ladies man he had ever met.
"The way the town of Middleburg is," said Fiore, "Howard was dating tons of women."