The trial of Patchita Tennant, the Flanders woman charged with attempted murder after shooting her ex-boyfriend, Andrew Silas Mitchell, last September moved into its seventh day of testimony Wednesday, March 18, with Tennant herself on the witness stand for the second straight day.
On Wednesday, at one point, as she described the abuse she said she had undergone at the hands of Mitchell, she broke down on the stand, weeping. Justice John Collins called a halt to the proceedings, and Tennant went out to the hallway with family members consoling her. The day before, her niece had to leave the courtroom, overcome with emotion.
The trial, one of only three ongoing in Suffolk County, has been moved from the Arthur M. Cromarty Criminal Court Complex in Riverside, which has been shut down, to the Cohalan Court complex in Central Islip, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Tennant is the second and last witness her attorneys, Austin Manghan and Matt Touhy, are calling in her defense. Both sides rested their cases before the Wednesday lunch break, with closing arguments scheduled for after the break.
While Touhy had handled almost all of the cross examination questioning of the 20 witnesses for the prosecution, it was Manghan who patiently and quietly drew from Tennant her version of what happened the night of September 5, when Mitchell was shot with a snub-nosed revolver three times, twice in the chest, in the couple’s jointly owned residence at 492 Pleasure Drive.
Through Manghan’s questioning, Tennant painted a picture of Mitchell as a controlling, abusive partner.
The couple have a four-year-old daughter, Vanessa Mitchell, whose welfare plays a prominent role in both of their accounts.
Mitchell had told the jury that Tennant had “busted through” the door to the master bathroom where he was shaving the night of September 5, gun cluthed in both hands, and fired once. He said that Tennant then ran through the bedroom, circled around the bed, jumping on top of it, and fired again. A struggle then ensued for the weapon, he had told the jury.
Tennant’s version of the events of the night of the shooting, and the couple’s history, was quite different from Mitchell’s.
in a professional pink suit Tuesday, Tennant, 43, admitted to Mangahan that she was nervous as he started questioning her. She talked abut her life since coming to the East End of Long Island. “I came here for a better life,” she said about leaving her native Jamaica.
She arrived on the East End in 2001, she said, taking jobs at both the Amagansett IGA, and Bucket’s Deli in East Hampton. She has three sisters living on the East End, with whom she is very close.
Within a couple of years, she was working at the CVS on Pantigo Road in East Hampton, rising to the position of Manager. The store prospered under her leadership. “The CVS in East Hampton is the highest volume CVS on Long Island, and is in the top 40, nationally,” she said.
She met Mitchell in 2001. The couple began living together in 2002 in Montauk, before Mitchell bought a house on Riverside Avenue. Mitchell, she said, was a contractor working for the late Ben Krupinski, working on luxury homes across the East End. Several months after Krupinski’s untimely death in a plane crash off Amagansett in 2018, Mitchell went into business for himself.
Mitchell’s and Tennant’s memories of their past diverged right from the beginning. Michell had told the jury that while he was living with Tennant in their early years together, he had gotten married to a woman in Indiana, and that Tennant knew all about the marriage. Tennant said she never knew about that marriage, and that Mitchell had always told her he was going to see his brother when he went to Indiana. That marriage ended in 2008. Tennant said she never learned about the marriage until 2019, when she came across the divorce papers. “He lied about everything.”
When the couple purchased their Pleasure Drive residence for $450,000 in 2014, $90,000 was required up front. Tennant said she put up $66,000 of the down payment, with Mitchell putting up the balance.
Yet, she said, Mitchell was very possessive about the house, calling it “my house.” If she bought sheets for the bedroom, and he did not like them, she would have to get rid of them. “Once we moved in, it was his house. Everything was, ‘My house.’ That is what he would say.”
Mitchell is estranged from his adult son, Tennant told the jury, because he beat him a couple of times, with the police being called following the last beating.
Mitchell could be violent with her, as well. In 2008, he arrived home after playing golf, she said, just after she returned from work at the CVS. The couple had family over. He demanded to know why dinner wasn’t ready. She told him that she had just gotten home from work. “He doesn’t like it when you talk back,” she said. “Then he slapped me across the face. After that, I moved out. I found an apartment in Hampton Bays, and I moved in with Kamishka.” Kamishka O’Connor is Tennant’s niece, who played an important role after another alleged domestic violence incident.
The couple eventually reconciled. She was asked why she went back with Mitchell, and she said he was “charming, educated, and hard-working.”
In November 2013, she said, “I was pregnant.” The couple were in the kitchen. Still asleep in the couple’s Riverside residence was Mitchell’s son, along with Tennant’s adult son. Mitchell wanted to wake them up, so that they could rake the leaves. Tennant told Mitchell they should let the boys sleep. “He grabbed me and slammed me against the refrigerator,” Tennant said. She began feeling an ache in her abdomen.
She went to work at the CVS. When she arrived at work, her water broke. She called for O’Connor, who was working at the store, and the two went into the bathroom. Tennant took off her pants. “The little fetus was in my underwear.”
At that point in Tennant’s testimony, O’Connor, who was seated in the courtroom, began sobbing, and left the room.
Tennant was hemorrhaging badly after the miscarriage. She went to the emergency room. She remembers, just before she lost consciousness a doctor calling out, “Her blood type. Her blood type. I need blood.”
Still, the couple reconciled. Mary Bromley, a clinical psychiatrist and therapist to battered women on the East End, has explained in the past that many women, no matter how much they are abused, find it difficult to leave their partner.
In 2016, Tennant gave birth to Vanessa. For a time, the couple were close, but that soon ended.
In 2019, after she learned of Mitchell’s marriage to the woman in Indiana, Tennant went to Mitchell’s office in Watermill. There was a woman working there. Mitchell had never before had a bookkeeper or assistant. The woman would not look Tennant in the eyes. Mitchell was standing in front of the woman.
“He was acting really weird.” Tennant said she said hello to the woman. “How are you? She would not turn around.” Mitchell started talking. “He started stuttering. ‘Hi. This is LaToya. ‘This is Patchita. Patchita my wife.'”
Mitchell in his testimony said that LaToya was his mistress, and that he never told Tennant about her.
Things went downhill fast. Tennant said she was afraid that Mitchell would try to take her daughter away from her. She placed a tracking device in Mitchell’s car, to be able to show his movements. Using an app, she would screen shot the various locations he went to.
After buying the house, Mitchell installed surveillance cameras in two downstairs rooms without telling Tennant. She eventually discovered them. “I felt like a prisoner in my home.” He would call her, complaining about the tidiness of the house, and the way she was raising their daughter. She told him, ‘I’m not monitoring you so stop monitoring me.'”
Every Friday night, Mitchell would stay alone on his boat in a nearby marina. One night in August, at 2 AM, he was notified that the wires to the cameras had been cut. Tennant admitted doing it.
When she was cross examined by prosecuting attorney Eric Aboulafia, Tennant seemed to stumble on the timeline when she bought a tracking device, which she planted in Mitchell’s pickup truck to track where he was going. Tennant said that she cut the wires because she knew Mitchell, who was not home, was at another residence. Tennant seemed to indicate that she knew that by a tracking device she had already purchased before she cut the cables to the cameras. Aboulafia pointed out that the email confirmation she received from Moto Safety, a tracking device that comes with a phone app, confirming her purchase, came in at around 3:30 in the morning, about an hour after Tennant had cut the cables.
When Manghan did a redirect questioning of Tennant, in response, he got her to admit that she might have been confused about the timing, due to the emotional stress she was under. It was soon after that that she broke down, sobbing on the stand, bringing the trial to a halt for about 15 minutes.
The night of the shooting, Tennant testified she had picked up Vanessa from the nanny who would take care of her during the day, Floria Nichola-Bautista. Another niece of Tennant’s who was serving in the Air Force, was home on leave. Tennant wanted to see her niece. She took Vanessa to her sister’s house. She then realized that when she had picked up Vanessa, Bautista had not given her the bag with clean pampers. Tennant went to the Pleasure Drive residence to pick up some Pampers.
She went upstairs to the master bedroom. “When I entered the bedroom, I saw him near to the side table, and I said, ‘Good evening.’” Mitchell had told the jury he was in the bathroom when Tennant entered.
“I said, ‘Vanessa is with my sister.’ He said, ‘Why?’” Mitchell became confrontational with Tennant. “Floria is more of a mother to Vanessa than you are,” Mitchell told her, Tennant said. Tennant said that she told Mitchell that she needed her clothes. “I don’t know why you don’t get the fuck out and leave me with my daughter,” she said Mitchell told her. When Tennant started to use the curse word, she stopped herself, asking Justice Collins if it was okay to use such language. The judge told her that it was.
Tennant said that Mitchell began berating her, repeatedly cursing. “He shoved me in the face.” She fell backwards onto the bed. He went into the bathroom, locking the door. She began knocking on the door, then kicked it, damaging the trim. Mitchell then unlocked the door. The two of them brushed shoulders as he exited the bathroom and she went in to get a shawl.
“I’m going to fucking straighten you out,” she said Mitchell shouted at her. He went into his closet, where he has a safe to which she has never had access. When he came out of the closet, he grabbed her by the collar, she told the jury. She did not realize Mitchell was holding a gun. “The room was dark,” she explained. Mitchell pointed the gun at her, saying “I need to move on with my life, and I need my daughter,” Tennant said. She grabbed his wrist. The two of them began wrestling for the gun. He tripped over a table and fell to the floor, dropping the gun, she said. She dived for the gun. He came at her, she testified, and she squeezed the trigger. “All I know is I kept squeezing. He kept coming, and I squeezed again.”
Manghan asked about Mitchell’s statement that she had jumped on the bed and fired the second shot Tennant said that wouldn’t have been possible, because of the height of the mattress, the fact that there is a ceiling fan over the bed, and her own height. “I’m five foot eleven,” she said.