SPOKANE, Wash.—The man accused in the kidnapping murder of his nephew's ex-girlfriend in 2013 took the stand Tuesday in his own defense.
Detectives accused Gary Stoddard of handcuffing and murdering 20-year-old Heather Cassel in 2013. His nephew Jonathan Ritchey, the father of Cassel's child, was also implicated in the crime, but reached a plea deal for his involvment.
READ: Accused Heather Cassel killer to be released from jail
Stoddard initially confessed to the crime, but later rescinded his statement. Detectives identified his DNA on a hat found at the murder scene as well as handcuffs that were used in the kidnapping according to court documents.
Stoddard claimed that he saw Cassel leaving in a car with his nephew the night of the murder. He told jurors his nephew returned by himself, in a stressful state, and blurted out a confession.
“It felt like all the blood drained from my system,” he said. “I was more than surprised.”
Stoddard testified that he planned to call police and was angry that Ritchey used his gun to kill Cassel. When authorities arrested him, Stoddard said he had a change of heart and took the blame for his nephew.
Detectives said Stoddard seemed almost anxious to tell them his story.
“I knew I had to go in there and tell them exactly what I had been told before I forgot,” Stoddard said.
Stoddard claimed that he previously thought he had terminal cancer and would never survive a trial. He added that he loves his nephew and was trying to spare the family from more pain, despite implicating him in the crime.
"The best person to do this, to take the fall for this was me,” Stoddard said. “I'm the person who is least cared for and I'd have the least effect on the family.”
Both Ritchey and his mother were on the defense witness list, but did not testify in court on Tuesday. Closing arguments were scheduled for Wednesday.