Someone is Lying
Episode two: No one disputes that Deven shot and killed John. But beyond that, the stories of what happened that night didn’t align. Someone was lying. The question is who: was it Deven, John or… the other woman John was dating?
- If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, use a safe computer and contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at www.thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233. You can also search for a local domestic violence shelter at www.domesticshelters.org/.
- If you have experienced sexual assault and need support, visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) at www.rainn.org or call 1-800-656-HOPE
- Have questions about consent? Take a look at this guide from RAINN at www.rainn.org/articles/what-is-consent
- Learn more about criminalized survival at https://survivedandpunished.org/
This series is created with Evoke Media, a woman-founded company devoted to harnessing the power of storytelling to drive social change. To learn more, visit weareevokemedia.com.
This series is presented by Marguerite Casey Foundation. MCF supports leaders who work to shift the balance of power in their communities toward working people and families, and who have the vision and capacity for building a truly representative economy. Learn more at caseygrants.org or visit on social media @caseygrants.
Follow host Liz Flock on Twitter @lizflock. For more stories of women and self-defense, check out her book “The Furies” from Harper Books, available for pre-order now. https://www.harpercollins.com/products/the-furies-elizabeth-flock
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Mike, Alexis, Deven, Liz Flock
Liz Flock 00:01
This show contains violent content and scenes of domestic abuse.
Yes, he and I just had a huge fight. He beat me up the pointed a gun at me. And he was shooting, like just shooting everywhere in the house. I took the gun away from him. And I did shoot him and I’m pretty sure he’s dead. And I need someone to come in. Like, fix it. Like figure out my story and everything else.
Liz Flock 02:39
We’re back in the early morning of December 12 2017. It’s nearly 3am Deven Grey is 25 and she’s covered in bruises. Her ear is bloodied. And she has facial fractures. She’s on the phone with a 911 operator in Calera.
I just want the cops to come so they can see. This was self-defense. And I did not just like premeditate this because he’s been beating me up all night. We both been drinking. And this is, I just need the cops to come. That’s why I call 911.
Liz Flock 03:15
The operator asked for Deven’s address, but she’s not sure. She’s in a lot of pain. And she’s been drinking. But finally Deven gets it together and says where they live along the highway. She also confirms that she secured the pistol.
He’s laying down on the bed. I think I’m pretty sure I killed him. Like, I know I shot him. So I’m pretty sure he’s dead right now. It’s in the living room. We live in a FEMA trailer when they get here, they’ll see what I’m talking about. All they have to do is walk straight up towards the powerlines they’ll see a FEMA trailer.
Liz Flock 04:05
But when the police arrive about 15 minutes later, they don’t see what she’s talking about. At least not right away. They have trouble finding the trailer. Because even though there right off the highway, it’s not visible with all the trees and wild overgrowth. I’ve driven by myself, and you’d never know anything was back there.
Do you want me to just go down there and like wave to them?
Liz Flock 04:44
It’s freezing outside. Devon gathers her shoes and coat while she waits for the police to locate them.
I’m gonna go down there right now. Tell them not to leave. I’m gonna have to bring my dog are down with me. I understand that spot. You’re bringing your three year old right?
Liz Flock 05:07
year old before calling 911 Devon says she went to wake up her daughter in the little bedroom where she slept, wrapping her up in a blanket. Later Deven explained to me that her daughter was so used to fights between her and John that she’d adapted to sleep through it all, including that night.
Collars walking out she advised she sees a patrol vehicle.
Liz Flock 05:29
With her daughter in tow, Deven steps out into the night. The pitbulls are tied up outside barking. The property is like a maze for the officers with random structures and abandoned vehicles everywhere. But eventually, they find each other.
Liz Flock 05:45
The police officer immediately notices Devon’s injuries because they are not small. I saw them in the crime scene photos later, and they’re really upsetting to look at. Her face was swollen and she was bleeding from one ear. By pistol whip she means John use the pistol like a blunt force weapon on her.
Listening to the 911 call that was probably my first clue that there’s probably something more to this.
Liz Flock 06:24
That’s Calera Police Sergeant Mike Malhoff. He was assigned as the lead investigator on Devon’s case. And that 911 call you just heard. That was his first introduction to Deven.
And then her demeanor just talking to her in person. I mean, you could tell she, you know. To me, I felt like she killed John in cold blood. It just she was way too calm.
Liz Flock 06:50
So did you consider this like an open and shot.
Probably one of the easiest ones I’ve worked. She’s admitted to shooting them. She’s, you know, everything that you know, made our case. I mean, that didn’t have to put a whole lot into it. I mean, she admitted to everything.
Liz Flock 07:12
This is Blind Plea. I’m Liz Flock. In all of our lives, there are crossroads, moments that lead us far from where we were before moving to a new town, the birth of a child. For Devon, those moments led up to December 12 2017. Or maybe it was just John that led her there. She once told me, My only mistake was falling in love with a monster. That December night changed everything. for her and for so many others whose lives were intertwined with hers and John’s the ripple effects were profound. And each person has their own version of what they think went down in that small trailer in the retellings of what happened. Some stories align, some contradict, and at least one person appears to be lying. I’m sitting in the Calera police department with my audio engineer Auntie nearly five years after that night and December. I’m talking to the Calera Chief of Police. He’s Sergeant Malhoff’s boss, Malhoff, who you heard earlier was the lead investigator on Deven’s case.
Liz Flock 08:43
Malhoff didn’t want to talk to me at first, the police chief really didn’t want him to. I’m laughing a lot doing my best to be charming and to persuade them to talk to me. And finally, they agree. As Malhoff settles into his chair, we make small talk. What do you have in the water?
It’s vanilla, orange. Okay, that takes like Grinch cycle.
Liz Flock 09:15
These days. Malhoff is no longer taking on cases. In fact, Deven’s was the last homicide case he worked. Now he mostly writes grants. But back in December 2017 Malhoff could be thrown into a case at any time. So what do you remember? Could you just take us back to that night like do you remember when you heard about it or got the call?
Yeah, it was late at night. I remember getting woke. You know, I got called got woke up. I was told that we had homicide that I needed to come in and start dealing with.
Liz Flock 09:45
Malhoff told me homicides aren’t common and clear. He’d been the lead investigator on just one before this. So Malhoff set out to familiarize himself with Deven’s case. The first step he took was listening to that 911 call you just heard and like he said before he was put off by his initial impression of Deven.
You can tell there was no empathy or there was no emotion on the part of the victim, well, actually victim on the part of the shooter, which was Deven Grey. It just something didn’t sound right about.
Liz Flock 10:19
Notice how he calls her the victim here before catching himself. In the criminal legal system, you have to be one or the other victim or perpetrator. But it seems like even Malhoff knows it’s not always that simple. As male half and I talk, I’m perplexed as to why he was so certain that Deven had no empathy or emotion. I’ve listened to a lot of 911 calls from women. And I’ve talked to a lot of detectives. And one thing I’ve noticed is that women get criticized no matter how they sound. They’re too calm, or they’re too hysterical. The thing is an abnormal situations people behave in abnormal ways, even though she was bleeding and bruised. Deven was cooperative on the phone. She offered to flag down the officers. She was gentle and patient with her daughter. But Malholff doesn’t see Deven’s demeanor this way, he sees it as a red flag. So that was his impression when he arrived at the crime scene. By then it was nearly 4am, patrol sergeants had already marked off the property. Can you describe anything that you remember? Like just even what you were feeling when you showed up there?
I will say this respectfully. It was just a rundown nasty trailer. I mean, it’s not a trailer like you know, you think of a double wide or anything like that. It was literally a travel trailer they were living in. So it didn’t even have proper utilities attached to it. As soon as you walk into the trailer, you’re in the kitchen. Just off to the kitchen. You got what I would call it a living room slash bedroom area.
Liz Flock 12:05
That bedroom is where Deven’s daughter slept her three year old, who is now in custody of Alabama’s Child Protective Services.
I remember Deven, they had her in one of the patrol cars and took her to the hospital just because she did have dry blood inside one of her ears.
Liz Flock 12:26
Devin was discharged from Shelby Baptist Medical Center around 11am. And then straight from the hospital. Calera PD escorted her to the police department for an interrogation. You’re hearing a recording we obtained from a video camera in the interrogation room. The room is small with gray padded walls, two chairs and a desk. Deven at nearly six feet tall looks tiny sitting in the corner. One elbow leaning on the desk. She has hardly slept in the past 24 hours. And she doesn’t have a lawyer. Malholff sits in the other chair across from her and reads her Miranda rights.
Liz Flock 13:21
We’re gonna get into the nitty gritty of what happened that day and night, how things escalated and what led to John’s death. As Malhoff interviews Deven, he sets out to establish a timeline, starting with the previous morning, Monday, December 11.
What did you do when you first woke up?
Made breakfast for my daughter and for us? And watch TV.
Okay, and so you woke up? You made breakfast for your daughter? You remember what you made?
We had pancakes and bananas and eggs.
Liz Flock 14:00
As Devin was making breakfast for the trailer, she says John was outside on the property repairing our camper with his friend Brandon Riff.
How long has he been? Brandon.
Maybe a year?
You don’t know Brandon’s last name?
No, cuz I wasn’t like, allowed to know or be a part of that. Like, especially around men. He didn’t really want me to hang out and be around other men. So I don’t really know this guy.
Liz Flock 14:30
You can hear the emotion in her voice. Deven said those years of isolation abuse and John’s paranoid jealousy had broken her down. Deven tells Malhoff that after a while John and Brandon left and Brandon’s car to run a few errands to get an air compressor hose for the camper and to pick up some groceries. The men also stopped by the house of a woman named Alexis Bernstein. The other woman John was dating. It wasn’t a secret relationship. Deven knew about Alexis and accepted that John had a girlfriend on the side? Because John had become so abusive when he was home. Deven was actually glad that he’d started spending more time at Alexis’ place. Alexis was a newcomer to the area, a 20 year old woman John wants described as quote, The Big Buck girl from Montevallo, which is the nearby town.
How long have you been seeing her?
I couldn’t tell you. I just found out that he was with her. Let me so I couldn’t tell you.
And when did you find that out?
A month ago, he told me.
Liz Flock 15:42
Another woman in the picture. This catches Malhoff’s attention. It’s a whole new dimension to the case. An explanation maybe for what happened? Malhoff keeps this other woman in mind. And a quick note, John had actually been seeing Alexis for several months at this point. And in those months, Alexis and John had become progressively more serious. I asked Deven about this and she said she miscalculated the timeline because she was in shock. That same day after eating lunch at Alexis’ place, John and Brandon came back to the trailer.
I knew he was drunk. So I know I made him a sandwich. I made his friend a sandwich. So they wouldn’t, you know, maybe soak up some of the alcohol. And I after that, they hung out for maybe another hour or so. And that’s when he came in. And he kept drinking, kept drinking, kept drinking.
Liz Flock 16:39
Malhoff interviewed Brandon the same day, he talked to Deven. And Brandon largely confirms what Deven is saying. Later, John’s blood alcohol level would show up as over a point two over the legal limit for driving. He also had hydrocodone and opioid in his system. That afternoon, John and Brandon chop down trees on the property with chainsaws and they fired off guns for fun. Around dusk, John and Brandon hopped back in the car for another errand. When they got back, they stopped by Henry’s trailer. That’s John’s dad who lives on the property. Here’s part of Henry’s interview with the cops. That was the last time Henry would see his son alive. Shortly after everything went down. Henry was called to the police station. And Sheila drove him there while officers investigated the crime scene. So sitting in the room with Henry, Malhoff wants to know, what did he make of John and Devon’s relationship?
He swung around.
Liz Flock 18:30
Henry tells Malhoff, I just can’t see her shooting him. She didn’t seem like the type.
You say the relationships been pretty violent, though? How often would you say that? He’s been violent with her? Turn the TV up. That’s what Henry said he did when his son abused Deven. After the beer run, John and Brandon hung out a bit more outside the trailer before Brandon eventually left around 10pm. John and Deven both went to sleep before Devin says John slapped her awake. This is when things started to turn.
And so when he first woke up what happen?
He asked where his phone was. And I told him that I didn’t know. And he got really mad. And at first he thought that he had just left outside and he made me go outside and look for it. And when I couldn’t find it, that’s when he got really upset. The main thing was his phone but then he started talking about me hanging out with Brandon. And he thought that I maybe was sleeping with him and it just spiraled out of control.
Now was he doing this because he thought you were sleeping with brand or because he lost his phone?
All of it. Like he got mad about this phone, but it turned into something like way more of you got angry, and he just took it out on me.
Liz Flock 20:11
Deven told me that was typical John. He could take something small and ramp it up into something dangerous, because it could be anything at any time. Deven said she was always on edge. She told me John looked like he was possessed that night that he didn’t see her as a person. But John’s other girlfriend, Alexis would describe a very different version of events. Malholff has called Alexis down to the station for questioning, it’s day time now several hours since the shooting. In the interrogation room, you can see she has a big smile on her face. She has no idea that John is dead.
Two and a half years now almost, three years.
Liz Flock 23:33
It’s not clear to me how a 20 year old could have been nearly three years into law school. I wasn’t able to verify that fact. But the other thing that struck me about this interaction is Alexis’ demeanor. She’s laughing. She’s chatty, casual, even. She doesn’t seem to understand why the police have called her for an interview.
I mean, does Deven know that y’all were together. Yeah. And she’s alright with that?
Liz Flock 24:00
Malhoff seem confused by the arrangement that Deven, John, and Alexis had, Deven called John, her boyfriend and the 911 call. But she told Malhoff that John was seeing Alexis and that she knew about it.
How does that work out? I’m just curious. I mean, are they boyfriend girlfriend or?
No, no, no, they weren’t together when him and I first started hanging out as friends. And then they stopped being together. And then him and I became together.
Liz Flock 24:28
At that point, John was seeing both Deven and Alexis although he was increasingly spending more time away from home. Deven didn’t like the John wasn’t around for their daughter. But at the same time when he was gone, she says that meant that he wasn’t beating her. So she accepted his relationship with Alexis.
Okay. Can you tell me when the last time you talked to him was?
Liz Flock 24:52
Malhoff still hasn’t told Alexis that John is dead. He still wants to get more information from her. Do you remember when you talked to him? Alexis scrolls through her call log. She says she made two calls to John in the early hours of that morning, the first at 12:33am. And the final call at 1:23am.
I know some of this is gonna get personal, but I need you to try to be as detailed as possible. And I’ll tell you why in a minute. What was the extent of those conversations?
I mean, him and Deven were arguing. Like she was just drunk and was complaining. He wanted me to come get him. I was like, I’m not driving that way.
Liz Flock 25:39
Okay, so pay close attention here. This is Alexis’ story before knowing John is dead. Alexis’ says that Deven and John were verbally arguing. When Malhoff asks if they were fighting, she says, no, not like that.
And then when he called me back that second time, when we talked for the whatever the time was after 1:20, he just called and was like, whatever. I’m going to sleep, blah, blah, blah, like, nothing like anything else like that. It was just typical. Like, I’m going to sleep. He said, I’ll probably come over tomorrow today, which was, he said tomorrow, which will be today, but I haven’t heard from him at all. Today. I’ve been calling his phone, his phone still off. I texted her phone and called her phone and they’re not answering.
Liz Flock 26:22
John said he was going to sleep. That was it.
Well, I’ve got some very bad news.
John was killed last night. He was killed by Deven. I’m not joking. But that’s reason I couldn’t talk to you on the phone about what I needed. And I’m sorry, I truly am.
Liz Flock 26:50
Malhoff tries to hand Alexis a box of tissues, but she doesn’t notice. She’s got her head in her hands.
Listen to me, look at me. This is really important.
Liz Flock 27:06
It’s really tough to listen to this interview with Alexis. I had to turn it off a few times, because she’s obviously in so much pain. She and John spent a lot of time together. He was like a father figure to her daughter. And they had all these plans for the future. Suddenly, Alexis’ is telling a very different story. After she knows John is dead. She’s saying that things were getting physical and that Deven was the aggressor.
She was shooting the gun and put holes through the ground and everything. And she said she would be they’re gonna shoot herself and blame him. Or she was gonna kill him. And she kept pulling the gun on him and he was begging me to come get out.
Liz Flock 28:11
So Deven was the one shooting up the place. When I heard Alexis, say this, I had to stop and rewind the tape. Deven was quote, either going to shoot herself or quote, she was going to kill him. This is when I first started to realize that someone probably wasn’t telling the truth. As I’ve been digging into this case, for the last two and a half years, I’ve used every bit of evidence I could get my hands on to piece together a picture of what happened that night. Police interviews, the incident report, crime scene photos, court documents, medical files, social media, and 14,000 text messages. I’ve looked through it all. And when I’ve traced the timeline of this night, there are only two people who could tell you what really went down Deven and Alexis, but Deven was there. And Alexis was only on the phone. In his interview with Alexis, Malhoff takes her through the timeline that Devin laid out, Alexis and Deven both agree that around midnight, John woke up and he couldn’t find his phone. Let’s go back to that moment with Deven.
So maybe like 15-20 minutes into us trying to find his phone. He called Alexis.
Liz Flock 29:28
Because John couldn’t find his phone. He called her from Deven’s phone, Alexis picked up.
Then started arguing. He was like Deven, where’s my phone app? And she was like, I don’t know. That flippant, like screaming. He was like, why are you talking to me like that? I’m just asking you for help. I’m just asking you questions. And he kept like, he kept telling her he was like, I don’t understand why you’re yelling stop yelling like. She ended up going outside to look and see where his phone was.
Liz Flock 29:55
Deven says she did go outside to find his phone.
He sent me out go looking outside for it and I couldn’t find it. And that’s when he got it. He got like upset.
Liz Flock 30:07
John finds the charger at this point, but still no phone. Here’s Alexis again.
So he asked Deven again he went inside. He was like Deven, could you possibly try to remember where my phone is?
To clarify. Now you’re hearing this to phone conversations. Just because you’re on the phone with, so you hear their conversations?
Liz Flock 30:28
So John and Deven were arguing. John was also talking to Alexis on Deven’s phone, and Alexis could supposedly overhear the fight. Here’s what Deven remembers.
After I voluntarily went outside to look for the phone. He then actually literally pushed me out the door, and I fell. And that’s why my like, that’s why the bruises on my back from because I fell on the ground, then he dragged me back in and he started smacking me on my face. He punched me in my stomach. He kicked me. After a while, he went and got the gun. He started firing shots.
Liz Flock 31:19
This is when their stories start to really diverge. Alexis tells Malhoff.
Next thing I know I hear a gunshot. And I freaked out. And I said, Jay, what just happened? And Deven was in the background screaming like, yelling, arguing to him calling him a bunch of names all this stuff calling him fat, old ugly, like all this all this shit that she always said.
Liz Flock 31:42
According to Alexis, Deven was the one firing shots. John had recently taught Deven how to shoot a gun. Though he was the far more experienced shooter. Alexis even claims one of the bullets went through the bedroom door where John and Deven’s daughter was sleeping. Even though Alexis wasn’t there.
He told me he was like, she’s okay. She’s okay. Just calm down. Alexis. She’s fine. She’s fine. It’s just Deven. It’s just Devon. And he kept saying that and I was like, okay, but she’s got a gun shooting through the fucking house like a little much.
Liz Flock 32:13
Deven says that she was hiding from John in the bathroom while he fired shots to the door. But here Alexis claims Deven is the one who turned the gun on the bathroom and shot at John.
She was shooting to the bathroom door. In the bathroom. There’s like a little wall like next to the door. She shot that. And he started laughing. This is really shooting through the wall right now.
Liz Flock 32:43
But Deven says John shot through the wall.
I believe it was two or three times when he shot in the house and like the second or the third time. It was like so close to my head like, I had ringing in my ears because that’s how close he tried to shoot at me.
Liz Flock 33:05
A forensic psychologist would later write that Deven likely lived in a near constant state of fear of being seriously hurt or killed. And she wrote the Deven’s accounts of this night. We’re highly consistent with the crime scene evidence. Devin tells Malhoff then began shooting through the bathroom door. She says bullets hit the toilet seat and floor and water started pouring out of the toilet. It was complete chaos. It’s wild that Devon wasn’t hit by a flying bullet in that small trailer. She explains.
He shot something. I don’t know if he shot there was like a water tank or something. Cuz our bathroom was called like filled with water. I had to go outside.
Liz Flock 33:49
With all the shooting that Alexis says she was hearing on the other end of the phone. She didn’t call the police or try to get help. Said she offered John some advice. She tells Malhoff.
so just try to calm her down. I don’t know. I said just talk to her or even just get out. Go outside. Go ride the tractor around. I mean, that was his thing. He you know get stressed or something and hop on that big ass tractor and he gonna run over stuff. He stepped outside for a minute. And then he was gonna call me back.
Liz Flock 34:20
Meanwhile Deven says the horrific scene continued. Devin tells Mel Hoff that John kept beating her this time with the handgun. This is corroborated by the injuries that sent her to the hospital, fractures in her face severe cuts and a busted left eardrum.
He liked was holding it like he was gonna shoot. But he didn’t have his hand on the trigger it just like hit me with I guess like the front of it. Front end. The back of my head. My ear my cheeks. And then like, my neck right here.
Liz Flock 35:05
Police photos of Deven from that night show these injuries. Like you heard earlier from John’s dad Henry. John was regularly rough with her and slung her around. When we called Henry he didn’t want to talk. But he told the forensic psychologists that his son was controlling and violent with Deven, that one Easter he could hear John flinging her against the side of their trailer. And in text messages that police recovered from Deven’s phone. John acknowledges his abuse and even apologizes to Deven for it. Yet, Alexis insists otherwise.
Just be honest.
On my daughter’s life. He’s never put a hand on me. And I’ve never seen him put a hand on her. I’ve never seen him. Like they’ve yelled and argued and she’ll get in his face. She’ll push him so flam things on him. So throw things out. But he has never lost his cool.
Let me explain some things that we do know. Maybe you can help shed some light on that. She’s got facial fractures. She’s got some severe cuts on her. And she’s claiming that they’re from J. How would it get to that point?
If J was honestly beating her, I guarantee she probably would be knocked out or unconscious.
Liz Flock 36:29
Deven says she did become unconscious before John punched her back awake. Deven may have been tall but she was no match for John. John was a big guy 5’11 and 241 pounds. Deven says John hit her in the face strangled her with both hands and then flung her outside of the house a second time. She remembers sitting down on a slab outside to catch her breath before John dragged her back inside. At one point, Deven says John grabbed the compressor hose he bought earlier that day, and strangled her with it. All the while she says he continued to accuse her of sleeping with Brandon. Even though John was seeing someone else Devin says he didn’t like the idea of her getting with another guy. She says he was paranoid that she was and that only fueled his jealousy. Things eventually became foggy for Deven. But you remember is John calling Alexis again. Here’s Alexis.
That second time we were on the phone. She said she was either going to shoot herself and blame J or she was going to kill him and that retard baby that he gave her. She’s not going to shoot you. I said just call me in the morning. I’ll come and I’ll come over and get you in. He said you’re gonna call me when you woke up. And then he told me he loved me and got off the phone with me.
Liz Flock 38:07
Devon denies saying any of this. She’s adamant that she would never say those words about her daughter. And this accusation from Alexis is especially painful for Deven because her daughter is autistic. For what it’s worth. I’ve never heard Deven use the R word. But Alexis says it a few times in her police interview in different contexts. After Alexis makes these allegations, her testimony about that night ends, because after she and John hang up the phone, he doesn’t pick up again.
Liz Flock 38:45
Okay, so these are wildly different accounts, the kinds of discrepancies that should set off alarm bells for any investigator. My instinct was that Alexis wasn’t telling the truth. Or maybe John hadn’t in his descriptions to Alexis over the phone. I was struck by how Alexis his story of that night changed once she learned John was dead. I brought it up to Malhoff during my chat with him to see if he noticed that too. Before she knew John was dead, she tells, you ask like where John and Devin fighting? And she goes, no, not really. And then as soon as you told her John was dead, she was like, actually Deven was shooting up the thing. So it seemed to me like it could have been the.
It wasn’t like that either. I don’t think she, I don’t think I got that information until a few days later.
Liz Flock 39:35
No, it was the same interview because I watched the..
Same interview. It’s been a while back I don’t, I’m not saying that she wasn’t abused. She just wasn’t abused that night.
Liz Flock 39:47
But well, if the eardrum let’s assuming that was inflicted by John and what about the bullets in the bathroom and stuff? The bullet holes in the bathroom?
Well, you know she did that right? Because that was the, you did read this whole case, right? So you read what the stuff I put in there about Alexa, her being on the phone with Alexa and actually hearing the bullet shots.
Liz Flock 40:14
Yeah, but how do we know Alexis can’t see on the phone? So that’s what’s confusing to me. Like, how does Alexis know who’s shooting the gun?
Because Deven was telling her if he didn’t come get him, I’m gonna kill him.
Liz Flock 40:25
But how do we know that Alexis is telling the truth?
Liz Flock 40:27
No, you don’t. But you just have to read people and you know maybe she did lie. Maybe she did, but I don’t think so.
I finally calmed down. And he made himself more drinks. He took like, two or three more shots. And that’s when he liked lay down and he said he was gonna kill me if he, if I like laid if I like tried to lay down next to him or if he heard me breathing, or if he thought I was using the phone. He was gonna kill me.
Liz Flock 42:55
Deven says John set the gun down and lay down on his stomach on their pullout couch. He left the gun loaded, which Deven says he never did. Their three year old daughter who depended on Deven was fast asleep in the next room. Devin says she was sure that when John woke up, he was going to kill her that she had no means to escape. So she picked up the gun.
And I took the gun and I shot him. I mean, I think I believe that I really felt like, the next time you got up, you’re gonna take the gun, and it was gonna kill me. So I mean, we fight all the time, something about what he was doing was different. Like he wouldn’t stop something inside of me. He just was like, I like I have to. I have to protect myself, because I was really scared. And I never called the cops on him. I never go to the hospital for all of the lumps and bumps and bruises but something inside me was different.
So what happened this time that made a difference?
He just would stop and I just saw like that look in his eye. It was like death like deadly. And it was just different. Like I really felt like he was gonna kill me the next time he got up so I just I did it.
Liz Flock 44:23
Deven says five minutes pass since John laid down and she shot the gun. She and John had been together for six years. She knew him forward and backward better than anyone else. She knew what set him off. She knew how far he’d go before offering a halfhearted apology for abusing her. That’s why Deven says she felt that night was so different. She says John wasn’t following that usual playbook. Years later. Devon’s story hasn’t changed. Even today in an interview from prison. She remembers the terror she felt that night.
I saw the gun, and I saw him. And I was just like, I was just like, it’s, I’ve had enough of it. So I just, I just thought the opportunity, I think, and I just pulled the trigger. And that’s like, oh my god, like, it was just like this crazy feeling like, I don’t know, it wasn’t relief, but it was like, I don’t know, relief is kind of a messed up word. But it just felt like there was like a way a house. It’s like, Oh, my God, like it’s over.
She could have walked right out front door, and he would have never been the wider. I mean, he was sleeping. You’ve got a way to escape. I mean, you literally have a gun in your hand. So even if she had felt threatened, had he woken up, you know, she wouldn’t. There was no immediate threat at that time.
Liz Flock 46:14
The trailer had one door, so there weren’t exactly many escape routes. If Devin and her kid did manage to escape the trailer, they’d have to navigate through the wild landscape in total darkness. And Deven said John had always told her that if she left him, he’d come and find her wherever she was. Research backs that up. A 2020 study of men who had killed their wives found the precipitating event was that the woman tried to leave or left. So what would have had to be different to make this self-defense like fighting back in the moment or?
If it was something done in the heat of the moment. I mean, that would certainly would have made a difference but him sleeping, that’s not self-defense.
Liz Flock 47:02
It’s not clear if John was sleeping or just lying down. We know that he was lying on his stomach facedown. His arms and legs spread wide. And the autopsy report shows that Devin shot him in the back of the head. When I first learned that, I thought, wow, of course she got 15 years, given how narrowly the system views self-defense for abused women. Because no matter what state you’re in, self-defense law requires the threat to be what a reasonable person would find imminent. It generally has to be in the heat of the moment, like Malhoff said, which makes it very hard for domestic abuse survivors to when self-defense cases. But as the forensic psychologist writes in her report on Devon, it is not uncommon for women who killed their abusers to wait to act until their abuser has fallen asleep, or is not in a position to kill them. Because they feel as though it’s their only opportunity to save their own lives. But Mal Hof had a very different motive in mind by then for why Deven would have killed John. So you already weren’t really considering it self-defense, but then when Alexis came in and said that she was this other woman, like how did that change your investigation?
I would have said, well, you know why Deven probably killed John. I mean, it just kind of bolster, you know, I don’t want to say bolstered but it kind of gave merit to why she probably would have killed John, you know, at least gave a motive as to why? Because he was he was living with both of them. He was back and forth between two of them so.
Liz Flock 48:41
And so he says, Deven kill John out of jealousy. It was because of the other woman, Alexis. Back in the interrogation room. It’s sinking in for Devin that she’s probably not going home anytime soon.
Am I like going to jail?
Yeah, you’ll go to jail.
But that doesn’t negate anything that you told me tonight. I mean, like I said, I mean that this is just a formality thing.
No, and I just want to be prepared for what I’m, what I have to do, like, I figured, I mean, I killed somebody. Like, I’m not thinking I’m just gonna get to go home. I just wanted to know.
Liz Flock 49:25
Deven is sitting in a booking cell in Shelby County jail with no idea of what’s coming next. Her daughter is in custody of Alabama’s Child Protective Services. And Deven doesn’t know when she’ll see her again. Deven is also under Mental Health Watch. The jail staff are monitoring her to ensure she won’t die by suicide before they transfer her to a pod of other inmates. For six days. Deven sits in that cell sober and alone wondering what’s going to happen to her. She said she felt like a dog in an SPCA, commercial stay Hearing out between the bars hoping someone would help. She said none of it felt real. During that time she is officially charged with murder. And her family starts to hear rumblings of what happened that their girl is in jail 800 miles from home. They finally know where she is, but it’s too late. Before that night before the fighting before the baby and before she stepped foot in clear Alabama. Deven was a Suburban Girl who disappeared. Next time on Blind Plea. We go back in time with the gray family to learn who Devon was to them. What happened when she went missing? And how everything went off the rails.
There’s more Blind Plea with Lemonada Premium, subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content. Like an interview with John’s dad, Henry and more excerpts from Deven’s detective interview the night of the shooting. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. Blind Plea is production of Lemonada Media. I’m your host Liz Flock. This episode was produced by Kristin Lapore, […] Evans and Tony Williams, Hannah Boomershine and Rachel Pilgrim are also our producers. Story editing by Martina Abrahams Ilunga. Mix music and sound design by Andrea Kristinsdóttir with additional mixing and engineering from Ivan Kuraev. Naomi Barr is our fact checker. Jayla Everett is our production intern. Jackie Danziger is our Vice President of narrative content. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittles Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, evoked media, Sabrina Merage Naim and myself, Liz Flock. This series is presented by Marguerite Casey Foundation. Help others find our show by leaving us a rating and writing a review. Follow me at @LizFlock. And for more stories of women and self-defense, check out my book The Furies from Harper books available for preorder now. Find Lemonada at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms, and follow Blind Plea wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. Thanks so much for listening.