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Defendant takes stand in pretrial hearing

A College Park man standing trial a second time in the strangulation death of his baby’s mother took the stand Monday morning during a pretrial hearing to deny telling police he killed her.

Clayton County police said Errol Alexis Moore Jr., 21, led them in October 2010 to where he dumped Janell Aaron’s body after he strangled her July 15, 2010. But from the stand Monday in Clayton Superior Court, Moore said he told detectives what they wanted to hear.

“I told them anything to get them out my face, to be honest,” said Moore under cross-examination. “I said whatever I had to say.”

After being interviewed by detectives Tom Martin and Stefan Schindler, Oct. 7, 2010, Moore allegedly admitted to killing the mother of his baby girl and dumping her body.

Clayton police said Moore strangled Aaron during an argument over her cell phone. After Aaron lost consciousness during the assault and dropped to the floor, prosecutors allege Moore wrapped her in two comforters and put her inside a blue plastic container. He then allegedly dumped the container in the woods behind Sherwood Memorial Cemetery.

Moore’s defense attorney, Neil Smith, asked for a Jackson-Denno hearing — one to determine if a confession or statements made by a defendant were given involuntarily and so should be thrown out — prior to the trial. Parts of the recorded four-hour interview were played for Chief Judge Deborah Benefield, who is presiding over the trial.

Moore can be heard crying during portions of the interview and declines the offer to have his mother accompany him during the questioning. At one point, Moore tells detectives, “I don’t want to lose my child,” while denying he knew anything about what happened to Aaron.

But he eventually tells them the two fought.

“She just kept coming at me, she just kept hitting me,” said Moore during the interview. “She just kept beating me. She hit me in the eye and started grabbing stuff in the kitchen to hit me with. I put her in a choke hold. When I released her, she started going off on me, telling me she was going to call a whole bunch of people to take care of me. She went for the knife.”

At the end of the hearing, Smith argued that Moore was fearful and was trying to keep his mother and a friend from being arrested.

“This was not a voluntary statement,” said Smith.

Benefield disagreed and ruled the statement can be used in the state’s case against him.

“He wasn’t under arrest, he was free to go,” she said. “He was advised of each Miranda right and had been told he was free to go.”

Jury selection was to begin Monday afternoon, with testimony beginning after the panel is seated.