The ex-wife of a man on trial for murder in what prosecutors characterize as a decade-spanning series of revenge shootings testified Wednesday that she was blackmailed for months and sexually assaulted after her husband learned of her extramarital affair.
Then an Air Force major, Beverly Nozolino faced a dishonorable discharge, the loss of her military retirement pay and a potential prison term should her affair with a civilian co-worker at the Air Force Academy be made known to her superiors.
That was the cudgel Bruce J. Nozolino, 52, held over her head after learning of the relationship in March 1999 through a private detective, his ex-wife told jurors after being called as the first witness in what is expected to be an eight-week trial in 4th Judicial District Court.
During opening statements on Tuesday, prosecutors described Nozolino as controlling and abusive, and they moved quickly on Wednesday to cement the portrait in jurors' minds.
During roughly eight hours on the stand, the woman recounted in a polite southern accent how Nozolino, already a controlling husband, began resorting to "extreme demands" upon learning of the affair, including forcing her to call their fathers to confess.
In a quavering voice, she recalled a night when she said her enraged husband, who had by then taken to living in the couple's basement, crept up to her bedroom and demanded that she perform oral sex on him - or be reported to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
"I told him I didn't want to do that and I considered it rape," she said, staving off tears.
After composing herself on the stand, Beverly Nozolino said she capitulated when Nozolino continued to repeat his threats to turn her in using an even, deliberate voice - sounding, she said, more "powerful" than he ever had before.
When she was finished, he left without a word, according to her account.
"It was demeaning. I couldn't believe it was happening. I felt bad that I was letting it happen and I couldn't stop it."
Sexual assault is not among the charges leveled against Nozolino, but a judge permitted a jury to hear the testimony for the "limited purpose" of considering motive and intent. Prosecutors say the break-up - and Nozolino's loss of control - led to four revenge shootings, including the November 2008 murder of Richard Schreiner, Beverly Nozolino's former lover.
Aside from the sexual assault, Beverly Nozolino said her husband wrote up a "document" laying out conditions she must follow or be exposed.
To keep her husband from reporting the affair, she was to comply with a "four-phase plan" that called for her to agree to a secret divorce that would be kept from their children; pay all the couple's bills; handle errands involving the children; support her husband in a lawsuit against her lover, and sign over a portion of her retirement pay.
The deal would have required her to cohabitate with Nozolino for five more years, until she was eligible to begin drawing retirement, she said.
"Somewhere in one of the phases . I could date, but I would have to divulge to him who I was dating."
Behind all the demands was a constant drumbeat of threats, she said.
"I don't know if I could count them. Many times. All the time. At least once a day."
Beverly Nozolino said she eventually told her husband the prospect of staying with him in a loveless marriage was "ridiculous" and she got a lawyer - leading to a contentious 2002 divorce that led to $100,000 in legal expenses for her alone.
Nozolino was ordered to compensate her $35,000 because of his habit of frequently filing what a judge called frivolous motions and complaints. But hasn't paid anything so far, she said. The tab, with interest, has reached $52,000, and was part of the reason that Nozolino lost his government security clearance and his job as a software engineer at Lockheed Martin in 2008.
Beverly Nozolino said she was "ashamed" and "embarrassed" by her affair, which began in 1999 after Nozolino had moved to the basement and installed a locking door without giving her explanation.
During that period, the marriage was on the rocks and she said Nozolino had become increasingly controlling about the couple's finances, though she brought home the greater share of their income.
Among the exhibits shown to jurors was an email Nozolino sent his wife announcing that he would send his wife a series of "Why" questions that she must answer.
The first asked why Beverly Nozolino would leave her husband "open and vulnerable" to AIDs by the affair. The note said her answer was compulsory and would become part of "long-term permanent records" that he said he might elect to share with the couple's daughters later in life.
The emails were frequently signed "Brucie," she said.
"I didn't call him Brucie. I called him Bruce. Nobody called him Brucie.
"But he referred to himself that way."
Nozolino didn't report her to the Air Force. In addressing why, prosecutor Donna Billek elicited testimony that Nozolino was awarded a share of her retirement pay as a result of the divorce. If she were discharged, there would be no retirement pay for anyone, including Nozolino, the woman testified.
Beverly Nozolino also said she learned during the divorce that Nozolino had taken out a life insurance policy for her without her knowledge, naming himself the beneficiary.
The woman is expected to retake the stand at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, when Nozolino's attorneys, who only briefly cross-examined her at the end of the day on Wednesday, will resume their questioning.