Donna Best Hoffmann took the witness stand yesterday and contradicted about a dozen people who testified against her, saying she had been a faithful wife, never smoked PCP, did not plot to kill her husband or pay George Harvey $100 after he had shot her husband.
"Basically everyone in this case is lying against you, is that a fair statement?" prosecutor Michael Whalen asked Hoffmann under cross-examination.
"Yes, sir," Hoffmann said decisively.
About 150 spectators packed the Prince George's County Circuit courtroom yesterday on the fourth day of the trial to hear Hoffmann's testimony. The case is expected to go to the jury Monday or Tuesday.
Hoffmann is charged, with first-degree murder for planning with five young men the execution-style shooting of Michael Hoffmann, 20, her husband of three months. He was a civililan clerk at Andrews Air Force Base.
The prosecution has argued that Hoffmann drove her husband to a lonely road in Aquasco, Md., on Dec. 15. where she got out of the car with her husband and then watched Harvey, 23, shoot him in the chest and head.
Donna Hoffmann led police to the scene of her husband's slaying the next day. His body was found nearby in Black Swamp Creek.
She initially had made police suspicious when she phoned hours after the killing to report Hoffmann missing and to say she had found a note from him that said he had been kidnaped. She wrote the note herself, according to court testimony.
Yesterday, prosecutor Whalen made repeated attacks on Hoffmann's credibililty by asking her about the honesty of statements she had made to police. Time and time again, Hoffmann acknowledge that she had lied.
"When you reported to police that you received a note on the kidnaping of your husband, you were crying," Whalen said. "But you knew your husband was dead at that time, did you not?"
"Yes sir," Hoffmann replied without hesitation.
Later, Hoffmann acknowledged to Whalen that she had lied when she told police that on Dec. 15 her husband had told her a man had come by the house with a gun, threatening him.
She said she also had lied when she said that "two guys with hats over their heads" grabbed her and kidnaped her husband as she was driving him to Aquasco the night he was killed.
Each time that Hoffmann acknowledged she had lied, her father, Charles Best, a ruddy-faced truck driver, wiped tears from his eyes.
Despite her admission that she had lied to police, Hoffmann clung to her story that witnesses had lied about her, even John Penkert, 26, who pleaded guilty in connection with the Hoffmann slaying and was named by some as her boyfriend.
"I was notified by Mr. Penkert that he has friends that were going to lie for him," she testified.
Hoffmann said she had seen Penkert socially only the night before the slaying and the day of the slaying, although five persons testified that they had seen her with him many times before or after the killing. Three persons testified that they had been holding hands and kissing.
Hoffmann also denied that she had used PCP, a synthetic drug, while a group plotted her husband's murder, as one witness testified. She said she was present when others had smoked the drug and plotted his death without her knowledge.
Hoffmann yesterday wore the same white dress with ruffles on cap sleeves that she wore the first day of the trial. As usual, she wore red lipstick and black mascara and eye liner. A tattoo of a cross was on her right hand just below her wrist.
Hoffmann dropped out of Suitland High School at the beginning of the 11th grade, according to court testimony. She held a series of jobs as a clerk and a salesperson. The longest she held a job was for 9 1/2 months -- behind the cosmetic counter at Woolco's department store in Forestville.
Dr. William D. Brown, a psychologist, examined Hoffmann several times after the slaying. He was unable to testify yesterday because of an illness, but his deposition was read to the jury.
"She's easily influenced by others and in an anxiety situation would withdraw to others who are more used to making decisions," Brown said of Hoffmann.
Brown concluded that Hoffmann was unable to understand the ramifications of her behavior. "She probably approaches life superficially," Brown said. "She practices escapism from her surroundings by letting her mind wander."