William (Bull) Evans-Smith, taking the stand yesterday at his own murder trial, testified that his wife was alive when he left their Loudoun County farm the morning she was killed.
Evans-Smith, head of a foreign studies program at American University, spoke in a firm, controlled voice as he acknowledged he had an 11-year affair with a coworker, but rejected allegations that he and his wife of 43 years had a troubled marriage.
Defense attorney Blair D. Howard, his voice growing increasingly louder in the small Loudoun County Circuit Courtroom, put four questions to Evans-Smith in rapid-fire succession:
Did you ever have any harsh words with your wife? "No, I did not."
Did you ever threaten your wife? "No, I did not."
Did you ever strike your wife? "Mr. Howard, I did not. I love my wife."
Was your wife alive when you left the house? "Yes, she was."
Commonwealth's Attorney William Burch maintains the 65-year-old Evans-Smith strangled his wife Barbara in their kitchen, dragged her body upstairs to her bedroom and then devised a cover up to make it appear as if she had been raped and the house burglarized.
A medical examiner has testified that she was not raped. The defendant testified yesterday that, in addition to money missing from the couple's bedrooms, he cannot account for heirloom jewelry worth an estimated $8,000 to $10,000.
Spectators, including his three daughters and other family members, yesterday packed the ground-floor and balcony seats of the old Leesburg courtroom as Evans-Smith took the witness stand. Attorney T. Brooke Howard sat behind a wooden podium from which his son, Blair Howard, directed questions at his client for 3 1/2 hours.
Howard asked Evans-Smith about his longtime affair with Frederica Bunge, 59, a coworker at AU.
"There grew an attraction between the two of us," testified Evans-Smith. "I think the feeling grew into an area that one might identify as love."
The affair ended in August 1984 when Bunge moved to California and Evans-Smith said it did not infringe on his marriage.
"I most certainly was able to live with my wife," he said. Raising three daughters and having to relocate 26 times while he was in the Army had forged a strong bond between them, he said.
He said, however, that his marriage suffered "from a sexual point of view." He did not elaborate.
Asked about Bunge's testimony last week that he had referred to "doom and gloom" at the farm prior to his wife's strangulation, he said he couldn't recall "anytime using those words."
A retired Army officer, Evans-Smith sat erect, often with his hands folded in his lap, and told the eight-man, four-woman jury that when sheriff's deputies informed him in his Washington office of his wife's death, the afternoon of April 15, he became "extremely upset.
"I've never been so upset in my life," he said. After about five minutes, Evans-Smith said he told the deputies: "I have to go home and see my wife."
He said they later informed him that that would not be possible until investigators finished collecting evidence at his Crooked Run Farm. Nevertheless, he said he replied: "I'm going home."
The drive from his American University office on Wisconsin Avenue to his farm near Hamilton, he said, "was the most agonizing trip I'd ever had." He said that en route he decided to visit his daughter, Lesleigh Cook, who had alerted friends that something was wrong that morning at the farm, about a mile from her home.
At one point, Blair Howard handed Evans-Smith a photograph and asked him to describe it. "I see a very saddened person there," said Evans-Smith of the photograph of himself at the gate to his driveway on the day his wife was killed. "It is I."
Evans-Smith, who earlier described at length his 26 years in the military, including a stint as an attache to the American Embassy in Moscow, said he was stopped in his vehicle at his driveway.
He pleaded with the deputies, he testified, to let him see his wife. They refused his request, and he made an effort on foot. "They physically detained me," he said. "I struggled with them."
Evans-Smith said they grabbed him by his arms and pushed him up against a vehicle. It was not until his son-in-law said, "Bull, cut it out, relax," that he backed off.
When he finally was allowed inside his rambling house off Virginia Rte. 725, Evans-Smith said he called out to his wife. "I called her and called her and called her," he said. "I broke down."
Soon after, he said, investigator Jay Merchant of the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department arrived to conduct a survey of missing items in a walk through the house that felt like "a guided tour."
They walked through the downstairs hallway, where a table and vase were overturned, up to the victim's bedroom, which was in disarray, and into his bedroom, where jewelry boxes and their contents lay on his bed.
At another point, Howard noted there had been testimony from his daughter, Lesleigh, and two friends, who said that in the months preceding his wife's death she had expressed feelings of fear about her husband. Howard asked the defendant if he could explain those concerns.
"Mr. Howard, of course, I've given this very much thought." He said the only thing he could recall, which may have elicited such feelings, was an incident on a snowy night in December.
He said he had knocked both himself and his wife unconscious when he dropped an armload of wood on the two of them. "We got up and lamented with each other," Evans-Smith testified.
Evans-Smith will return to the stand at 9:30 a.m. today for cross-examination.