TULSA — A state prison inmate testified Thursday that a 21-year-old woman charged with pushing her husband to his death from the 25th floor of their downtown Tulsa high-rise apartment admitted that she shoved the man during an argument after catching him "off guard."
Amber Hilberling, 21, is on trial for the death of her husband, Joshua Hilberling, 23, who fell from the couple's high rise onto the top of a parking garage in 2011. Her attorneys called the death a "tragic accident," and said Amber Hilberling would testify that it was self-defense, but prosecutors allege she became enraged because her husband was leaving her.
Bonnie Fulton, who is in jail for felony convictions that include forgery, burglary and writing bad checks, testified that she and Hilberling spoke in January 2012 while the two were incarcerated together at the Tulsa County Jail.
"She told me that she and her husband Josh got into an argument. He was going to leave her and she caught him off-guard and shoved him and, her words were, she 'killed the bastard,'" Fulton said.
"She didn't know how she was going to tell (her son) that mommy killed daddy," Fulton said about a conversation she had with Hilberling.
But April Seibert, one of Amber Hilberling's defense attorneys, attempted to portray Fulton as a known liar on cross examination.
"You're a convicted, known liar, isn't that true?" Seibert asked.
"I'm a convicted, known felon, yes ma'am," Fulton replied.
"You expect this jury to believe Amber Hilberling came up to you one day and said, 'I killed the bastard?'"
"That's not how it went down," Fulton said.
Prosecutors later Thursday played a one-hour video of Amber Hilberling and her grandmother waiting in a small police interrogation room after Joshua's death, unaware that they were being recorded.
Hilberling is hysterical throughout the video, lamenting that she was going to jail and questioning aloud why Joshua had to die.
"I just want to see him one more time," she sobbed. "I wonder if his parents know yet. They were right. They kept saying if we stayed together, I'm going to kill him."
Hilberling's grandmother can be heard instructing Amber several times to tell the police investigator that she didn't want to make any statements to police until her lawyer showed up.
Police detectives testified that the couple's apartment showed no signs of a physical struggle, as prosecutors tried to discredit the self-defense claim. Prosecutors showed jurors photos of the interior of the Hilberlings' apartment. Save for the broken window in the living room, all the furniture, artwork and candlesticks near it were in order, Tulsa police Det. Justin Ritter said Thursday.
"Everything appeared in its original place," added police investigator Darren Froemming, who photographed the crime scene. "It was very organized."
Detectives also retrieved from the apartment a protective order taken out by Joshua Hilberling against his wife. But Seibert noted that the order had been dismissed several weeks before his death.
Prosecutors earlier introduced a pair of crime scene photos showing a green canvas duffel bag packed and standing in the living room and a picture of the couples' closet. Half of the clothes were gone, and the clothing left — which appeared to be blouses and other women's clothing — purportedly belonged to Amber Hilberling.
Det. Jeff Felton testified that the luggage in the living room contained men's clothes, some of Joshua Hilberling's documents, a DVD player and some DVDs.
Jurors also viewed a 15-minute video shot by investigators at the crime scene, and were asked to look at grisly photographs showing Joshua Hilberling's crumpled body, his shattered cellphone, a tennis shoe and at least one bit of bone fragment.
As the pictures were projected onto the courtroom wall, Amber Hilberling, dressed in a navy blue blazer with her hair pulled into a pony tail, looked down at the defense table. One of her attorneys placed his hand on her shoulder.