Local News

Prosecutor: Man Admitted Killing His Wife

Posted March 12, 2007 6:20 a.m. EDT
Updated March 13, 2007 6:31 a.m. EDT

— A man accused of chasing his wife through a north Raleigh neighborhood and killing her admitted to police that he had strangled her, a prosecutor said Monday during the opening day of the man's murder trial.

Michael Massenburg is charged with first-degree murder for the slaying of his 34-year-old estranged wife, Toni Massenburg, in May 2005. Investigators said he chased his wife's minivan on several residential streets before running her off the road, and he then beat her and strangled her with her seatbelt.

Defense attorney Kevin Byrd, who chose not to give an opening statement to the jury, implied during jury selection that Toni Massenburg died after her seatbelt malfunctioned and not because of her husband.

But prosecutor Jennifer Lindow said Michael Massenburg admitted he killed his wife to police as they arrived at the scene of what they thought was a fatal traffic accident.

"Michael Massenburg turned around, put his hands behind his back and said, 'I did it. Take me to jail,'" Lindow told jurors. "What was going on in the defendant's head when he put that seatbelt around her neck and held it there and tightened it until she was dead?"

Witness Crystal Primus testified Monday that she called 911 two years ago after seeing the chase and crash and unsuccessfully trying to help Toni Massenburg.

"I was told to get away," Primus testified.

Two months prior to her death, Toni Massenburg took out a restraining order against her husband. But because they shared custody of their three children, they continued to have contact.

"It doesn't matter if you have a restraining order. It doesn't always work," said Nicole Graham, one of several friends and relatives of Toni Massenburg in the courtroom Monday.

"She's a sweet person, and the world missed out," Graham said. "She's not coming back. Her three children have no mother. Regardless of how this goes she's not going to be here anymore."

The Massenburg children are being cared for by Toni Massenburg's sister and Michael Massenburg's parents. They have had contact with their father at Central Prison, and family members said the three are doing as well as can be expected.

At a previous court hearing, Michael Massenburg was ordered to be held at Central Prison because he was aggressive toward officers in the Wake County Jail and tried to grab a guard's gun.

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