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Confession key evidence at murder trial

Attorneys for both sides in the murder trial of Dana Gregory McFarlane, a truck driver accused of killing his fiancee, agreed he is responsible for her death.

What the prosecution and defense want jurors to determine is whether McFarlane committed murder, or voluntary manslaughter, when he killed Kinaya Schenese Byrd, a Clayton County school teacher.

"You're not going to have as much of an issue of ‘Did he kill this woman?'" Assistant District Attorney Blair Mahaffey said in his opening remarks Tuesday. "This is an unusual case, because he told them he did. The issue is going to be ... the theories of the homicide," Mahaffey said. "The defense will offer the theory of voluntary manslaughter, as another option for consideration."

"He did what he did. There's no disputing that," said Doug Smith, of the Public Defender's Office, in rebuttal. "But ... the evidence will show that there were some circumstances."

The Jamaican-born McFarlane, 36, of Snellville, has admitted to a police officer that he killed Byrd, 34. He is charged with malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping with bodily injury, and possession of a knife during the commission of a felony.

Henry County Police believe McFarlane strangled Byrd during an argument, and cut her throat with a butcher's knife, on Feb. 12. Byrd's body was found inside her home, on Tramore Drive in Stockbridge.

Mahaffey said McFarlane let himself in to the victim's home on the day of her death, upon discovering she was not home. The defendant waited for about two hours at the house for Byrd, a teacher at River's Edge Elementary School in Clayton County, according to the prosecutor.

"Mr. McFarlane ... stood behind her door as she walked in," said Mahaffey. "When she walked in, he said, ‘Where have you been?' She told him that she had been at a friend's house. They had some type of heated exchange at that point."

Mahaffey said McFarlane later had sex with Byrd in her bedroom. Afterward, while Byrd was in the shower, McFarlane saw a sexually explicit text message on Byrd's phone, from another man, the prosecutor said.

"Mr. McFarlane was naturally upset that," said Mahaffey. "The evidence will show that he looked through some other text messages on her phone ... that were sexually explicit about some type of relationship that Ms. Byrd had engaged in with another man.

"When she got out of the shower, Mr. McFarlane confronted her, and they got into an argument at the time," Mahaffey continued. "At some point, Ms. Byrd ran from her house .., toward her neighbor's house."

Mahaffey added that McFarlane chased Byrd, caught up with her and dragged her back to her house. It was at that time that Byrd's neighbor, Lynwood Smith, tried to intervene, said Mahaffey.

Byrd's next-door neighbor testified that he heard her screaming outside his house on the day she died. The teacher, he said, had fallen behind his car in the driveway of his home. "I saw her fiancé, at that time, picking her up and dragging her back to the house," the neighbor said. "He just told me that there was not a problem."

McFarlane told Lynwood Smith to "shut up," and continued to drag her back into the house, Mahaffey added. He said, the neighbor, disturbed the altercation, then called 911. When police arrived at Byrd's home, they found her lying on her back, with her throat cut. McFarlane surrendered later that day to a Rockdale County Sheriff's deputy, said Mahaffey. McFarlane also told police where to find the knife he used to kill Byrd, said the defense attorney.

"He said, ‘I need to turn myself in. I just killed my fiancee,'" the prosecutor said.

McFarlane became engaged to Byrd in April of 2009, according to defense attorney Smith. The defense lawyer said McFarlane, who has a "third- or fourth-grade education," was able to decipher portions of the "graphic" messages on Byrd's phone, and told police he "flipped" when he read them.

"He's a broken man who lost everything," Attorney Smith continued. "Everything he thought he had, was a lie. He didn't go there with the intention of killing anybody."

McFarlane was indicted a grand jury April 1, and has remained in the Henry County Jail without bond since his arrest, according to jail records.

The prosecution is expected to continue presenting its case today.