Friday 25 September 1998
Accused describes years of abusePeter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen
When jurors first heard Lilian Getkate's voice more than a week ago, it was a disembodied sound from the past, at times sobbing and unintelligible, captured on tape from a 911 call she made minutes after she shot her husband Maury to death.
Pat McGrath, The Ottawa Citizen / Lilian Getkate
Yesterday, the jury heard Ms. Getkate speak from the witness stand, in her own defence against a charge of first-degree murder. The jury's interpretation of the testimony is likely to be the pivotal factor in their verdict.
With her voice at times falling to a murmur, the often teary-eyed woman told of the 16 years with her husband that led her to shoot him twice while he slept in their Ottawa home on Dec. 8, 1995.
She testified that she was the constant victim of her husband's angry outbursts, that he often insulted her, grabbed her, shoved her, tripped her or dragged her by the hair. She said her husband grew increasingly abusive over the years, sometimes threatening to kill her while shoving her face into their mattress or grasping her throat.
In graphic detail, she said that her husband, a psychologist with a PhD, forced her to engage in rough, kinky sex that left her feeling degraded and dirty.
She spoke of the early morning on which she shot him in the neck and back in their bed, so that "there was blood on the pillow, blood on him all over."
Before Ms. Getkate testified yesterday, Justice James Chadwick told the jury that he had reviewed the Crown's case and found there was not sufficient evidence of planning and deliberation to support a first-degree murder conviction.
He directed jurors to acquit on the first-degree charge, but said they could still find that Ms. Getkate committed second-degree murder or manslaughter. The jury is expected to begin deliberating by next Thursday.
As her day of testimony drew to a close, Ms. Getkate told the court how she felt about herself now.
"I still fight the voices," she said. "But I know I'm not the things he told me ... I'm not necessarily ugly, stupid."
Ms. Getkate, 38, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. She admits that she turned her husband's Ruger Mini-14 rifle on him, but her lawyer, Patrick McCann, has said she was emotionally, physically and sexually abused by her husband to the extent that she suffered from "battered-spouse syndrome" when she killed him.
The court heard of the Getkates' relationship from beginning to end. Ms. Getkate, who grew up just south of Vancouver, said she met Mr. Getkate when she was 19 and he was a 21-year-old visiting from Alberta, in 1979.
They slept together soon after meeting. Ms. Getkate said she had had no boyfriends before meeting her future husband, who had not had sex before either.
"It was the first time any man paid a lot of attention to me. I was very attracted to him," she said. A Grade 12 dropout, she found work in a nursing home, while he had a job as a sheet-metal worker.
She testified that in the early days of their relationship, Mr. Getkate was "always on the go, always planning something or doing something.
"I'm kind of a follower," she said.
The couple lived in Edmonton until 1983, court heard. In the early 1980s, Mr. Getkate took up the martial art of ninjitsu, his wife said. He and friends would go to parks at night, dressed in camouflage gear, to practice walking softly and fighting. Mr. Getkate also collected exotic weaponry such as ninja throwing stars and nunchaku sticks.
Ms. Getkate said that in later years her husband would wake her at night, put his hand to her throat and tell her that all he needed to do was push a pressure point and she would be dead.
When they lived in Edmonton, Mr. Getkate also taught his wife to handle and shoot guns, the court heard.
The couple moved to Lethbridge in 1983, after Mr. Getkate decided to go back to school. He later qualified for membership in Mensa, the international high-IQ society. In 1984, the couple married and in 1986 they had a daughter.
Ms. Getkate said that her husband was often irritable when he was a student. He wanted absolute quiet for his studying and was angered when his daughter cried.
Mr. Getkate changed after the birth of their daughter, his wife testified. "His tone got harsher. He called me a bitch. He called me a 'dumb c---,'" she said.
After Mr. Getkate graduated, the couple moved in 1988 to Guelph. Ms. Getkate took two part-time jobs, working as much as 60 hours a week, she said.
The Getkates' son, Kevin, was born in 1990, and Ms. Getkate said her husband then became more aggressive. He could not stand his son's screaming when the baby was hungry, court heard.
Mr. Getkate would grab his wife, shove her against the wall, pull her into the bedroom, the court heard. He weighed 200 pounds to her 120, and at 6-foot-2, was more than a foot taller than she was.
Ms. Getkate said her husband's physical abuse left her with no injury worse than a sore back, and that she never went to hospital for treatment.
"In Guelph, he first started to threaten me," Ms. Getkate said. He said he could "end it for me," she said. Mr. Getkate would grab his wife, take her upstairs, and force her face into the mattress. "I couldn't breathe," she said.
Mr. Getkate also became sexually aggressive, forcing his wife to have sex with him. "His words were: 'I was his wife. It was my duty,'" Ms. Getkate testified.
Ms. Getkate said that her husband also became physical with his son. "he'd take the diaper off and he'd whack him," Ms. Getkate said. Later, the boy did not want to be left alone with his father.
The family moved to Ottawa in 1993, when Mr. Getkate obtained contract work with Corrections Canada. In an Ottawa argument, Mr. Getkate again pushed his wife's head into the mattress.
Mr. Getkate became more aggressive sexually. "He told me that's what I was there for. I believed him," she said.
In Ottawa, Mr. Getkate began bringing his guns out. Ms. Getkate said she begged him not to handle his guns in front of his children.
Once, when the gun appeared to be loaded, Mr. Getkate pointed it at his wife. "I would never know if it there was a bullet or not. He'd pull the trigger," she said.
"I was scared, really scared. I'd shake, I'd cry. I was afraid ... he'd really shoot me."
By the fall of 1995, Mr. Getkate was unrelenting, she testified.
Earlier, Ms. Getkate had gone to a lawyer to discuss separating. But Mr. Getkate had dissuaded her from leaving, saying that he would take their children and disappeared, or that he would hurt her relatives. "He wasn't one to make idle threats," she said. "I didn't feel like I had any power against him." Ms. Getkate said she also feared that her husband wanted to sexually abuse their daughter.
In the weeks before her husband was killed, Ms. Getkate was not eating well, not showering, and had lost 10 pounds.
On the night before he died, Mr. Getkate forced his wife to engage in kinky sex, court heard. He went to sleep, and then several hours later, at around 4 a.m., the Getkates' daughter woke downstairs. Ms. Getkate went to comfort her and stayed with her. Mr. Getkate awoke and came down to confront her, she said.
"Your place is with me. You should be with me," Mr. Getkate said, court was told. Ms. Getkate said her husband again had sex with her, in their living room, outside their daughter's room.
"I kept asking him to stop," she said. "When he was finally done, he said: 'There. That will teach you.'"
Ms. Getkate said her husband went back upstairs, while she cried. She said she heard heavy footsteps, creaking and a couple of sharp noises. She remembered that her daughter cried out.
"I went upstairs and turned on the bedside light," she said. "Maury was all covered in blood.
"After that, I called 911."
The trial continues today.