A former Tennessee prison guard said in a videotaped interrogation that he and his son tried to rob a rural post office because they needed money and angrily shot two female postal workers multiple times after they found less than they expected: only $63.
"I lost it, man," Chastain Montgomery Sr. told postal inspectors. "I started shooting. I shot the black lady."
The video of the Feb. 15 interrogation was played Tuesday as evidence in a hearing for Montgomery, who faces six federal charges related to the Oct. 18 shootings of Paula Robinson, who was black, and Judy Spray, who was white.
The father's hearing offered the first details of the slayings that happened inside a small red brick post office four months ago and shook the small west Tennessee town of Henning.
Montgomery told two U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigators that he expected the post office the small West Tennessee town of Henning to have $25,000 when he and his 18-year-old son went to rob it because they were low on money.
"I was going through a rough time," he said. "I didn't think I'd get caught."
Montgomery told the investigators that after he shot Robinson, his son, Chastain Montgomery Jr., shot Spray. They then drove back to the Nashville area, where they lived, Montgomery said.
Chastain Montgomery Jr. was killed in a Feb. 14 shootout with police in Mason after they tried to stop him in a stolen truck. The teen started firing at officers with two guns before he was shot by a deputy from 57 yards away, authorities said.
His father was arrested on evidence tampering and other state charges when he went to the crime scene and tried to get into the truck, authorities said. The father drove to the scene in a black Chevrolet Impala that matched the description of a car investigators identified as the possible getaway vehicle in the post office shooting, authorities said.
Michael Scholl, Montgomery's defense attorney, entered a plea of not guilty. U.S. Magistrate Judge Charmiane Claxton ordered Montgomery held in custody until trial. He faces the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.
Postal Inspector Dwight Jones testified that Robinson, a retail clerk, was shot five times with a .40 caliber handgun. Spray, a rural mail carrier, was shot four times with a 9mm weapon, Jones said. Only $63 was missing from the post office safe.
A 9mm weapon used by the son in his shootout with police matched the 9mm used in the post office shootings, Jones said, citing a ballistics test done by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. A .40-caliber weapon recovered from the trunk of the father's Impala matched the one used to shoot Robinson, Jones said.
In the videotape, Montgomery Sr. told investigators that he knew the Henning post office well and he and his son went to rob it the morning of Oct. 18. The man had been separated from his wife and the family was having money problems, he said.
Montgomery said they drove around until they could find the right time to enter the post office. Montgomery said he jumped over the counter of the post office, with his son covering his back. The women were shot moments later.
Relatives of the two women were in the courtroom on Tuesday. Some wept during the hearing.
Prosecutor Vivian Donelson presented as evidence a written confession allegedly made by Montgomery. In it, he said he has "nothing else to live for."
"I hope your family can ever forgive me, but if you can't, I understand," the written confession said.
Investigators also asked whether Montgomery had robbed banks in the Nashville area in the past few months. Authorities have said that searches of both the son and the father turned up dye-stained cash. Montgomery did not confess to any bank robberies.
The defense attorney asked Jones whether Montgomery had been given his medication for paranoid schizophrenia before his five-hour interrogation. Jones said he did not know.
Scholl also questioned how the inspectors got the confession, which was only secured after they presented Montgomery with evidence against him.
"They kept questioning Mr. Montgomery about the issues being investigated until Mr. Montgomery admitted his involvement," Jones said.