Boy met girl on Claiborne Avenue more than two decades ago, and it was a rocky road all the way, 76-year-old Seabon “Tom” Gibson testified Tuesday as he claimed self-defense in the stabbing death last year of his longtime girlfriend, Fannie Campbell.
“I started talking with her, one thing led to another and we started drinking, and on and on,” Gibson said.
Campbell would take to crack cocaine, Gibson said, and the fighting — mostly over money — accompanied the drinking and drugs.
In April 2014, police arrested Campbell for allegedly gashing Gibson on his white-haired skull with either a hammer or a wrench after first smashing a window with a baseball bat. A restraining order was issued for Campbell, but the couple went on with their tumultuous relationship.
Campbell was 58 when she turned up dead on July 20, 2014, in a grassy lot on North Robertson Street. Her body was wrapped in a bloodstained sheet and covered with stab wounds. Police made a beeline to Gibson’s home in the 1300 block of St. Philip Street, where they found copious amounts of blood in multiple rooms.
Over hours of taped questioning by detectives Travis Ward and Robert Barrere that a jury watched Tuesday, Gibson denied having seen Campbell that day. In the fourth hour, though, he caved in, admitting he stabbed her. He told police that he’d wrested a knife from her and didn’t remember stabbing her eight times.
He then hoisted her body off the roof and into his pickup, dropping her in the grassy lot. He also tried to clean up the blood, police said.
When Gibson took the witness stand Tuesday after Orleans Parish prosecutors rested their case, he claimed ignorance of many particulars of the fracas that led to Campbell’s death.
He acknowledged serving time in the 1990s after pleading guilty to attempted murder, but he said he didn’t recall quite what he’d admitted to doing.
“I had a little incident at one time with a lady I used to live with. It’s been 20-something years ago, or 30, you understand. She stole a bunch of money from me,” he said. “I used to have it bad; I’d drink a little liquor, sometimes get too full. Next thing, half my money was gone.”
Gibson said he’d been warned that Campbell meant to do him harm. But they had bought a quart of gin and sat drinking, then got another bottle, he said, when an argument reared up.
“She attacked me. We was in a big battle there, and she come up with that knife and start talking crazy, sure enough, and I knew that meant no good,” he testified. “I knew that meant no good.”
Campbell often kept a weapon tucked across her bosom, said Gibson, who faces charges of second-degree murder and obstruction, for allegedly dumping her body and trying to rub out the bloodstains.
“I got half a finger cut off trying to get that knife. She tried to do the best she could, but I guess I was a little bit stronger than what she thought I was,” he said.
“Were you afraid for your life?” asked his attorney, Timothy Yazbeck.
“I had to do something to try to protect myself, or she gonna hurt me as bad as I hurt her.”
“Did you want to kill her?”
“No, I did all I could to try to help that girl. All I could. I didn’t want to spend my money for nothing. It always wind up about the same thing, all the time.”
After the fight, Gibson said, he went to sit on his bed, drunk and ignorant of Campbell’s fate before returning to find her dead.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli cut into Gibson’s self-defense claim, questioning why he lied to police and why he dumped her body and tried to clean up the blood.
He also mocked Gibson over his faulty memory about prior convictions and prison time, including the attempted murder count and others for burglary and simple escape in the mid-1990s.
“That’s kind of your solution when something goes wrong. You try to forget about it,” Napoli said.
Gibson said he cleaned up the blood to keep it from hardening on his floor.
As for dumping Campbell’s body, he said, “I was out of my mind. I didn’t know what I was doing and what is what. (I needed) some kind of clearance.”
Gibson faces a mandatory life prison term if convicted on the murder charge.
Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich sent the jury home after Gibson’s testimony. Closing arguments are set for Wednesday morning.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.