MANNHEIM, Germany — Sgt. Everett Robinson’s three hours of testimony Wednesday came down to one issue — control.

How much physical control Robinson had over his emotions and his knife-wielding girlfriend, Pearline McKinney, the night he killed her.

How much control Robinson had over a life that included a long-term relationship — a “love triangle,” a prosecutor called it — he had in Germany, while he had a wife and daughter in the States.

Robinson, of the 69th Transportation Company, 28th Transportation Battalion of the 21st Theater Support Command, is accused of premeditated murder, and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He claims he killed her in self-defense.

Wednesday was the second day of testimony in the trial, at Mannheim’s Taylor Barracks.

On the stand, Robinson twice recounted the night of Oct. 5, when he strangled McKinney to death.

Guided by defense attorney Maj. Kwasi Hawks, Robinson described an evening of physical and verbal abuse from McKinney culminating in a furious struggle to defend himself — and reason with her — as she tried to stab him with an 8-inch knife.

Robinson described 10 or 15 minutes of fighting during which he struck McKinney in the head, pushed her head away as she tried to stab him, then finally choked her, all in self-defense.

Under aggressive cross examination, prosecutor Capt. Richard DiMeglio hammered home on several points:

¶ Robinson claims to have killed McKinney in self-defense, but was able to muscle her around before killing her.

¶ Robinson received no serious wounds in the fight with McKinney, while he struck at least two severe blows to her head that brought blood, then choked her to death.

¶ Robinson never tried to leave the apartment as, he claimed, McKinney became more aggitated.

“Why didn’t you walk out the door?” DiMeglio asked. “If you wanted to get away, that would be the smart thing to do, wouldn’t it?” Robinson responded that he couldn’t find his keys.

Killing McKinney, DiMeglio said, would have solved what Robinson conceded was “a big problem”: a 19-year marriage, and a seven-year relationship with McKinney, who wanted to marry him. But Robinson maintained that he loved both women.

Robinson, who never spoke above a low monotone while on the stand, said he had been drinking during the day on Oct. 5 before he and McKinney had a night on the town. McKinney became angry during the evening, which included drinks at the Benjamin Franklin Village bowling center in Mannheim where McKinney worked, and she accused him of talking to other women.

When they returned to the Neuhermsheim apartment they shared, Robinson testified, McKinney first sulked, then began striking him.

He said as he tried to find his keys to leave, McKinney got a knife from the kitchen and attacked him.

After he realized McKinney was dead, he decided to kill himself, Robinson said. He picked her body off the bedroom floor and placed it on their bed. Then he cut his wrists, knelt beside the bed “and said what I thought was my last prayer, kissed Pearl goodbye and lay down beside her” to die.

During Wednesday’s court-martial, Hawks brought in witnesses describing Robinson as a diligent worker with no violent history, in contrast to McKinney, a volatile woman who attacked Robinson with a knife in 1996.

In the 16 months they worked together, “I can’t say I ever saw him angry,” said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Shank, of the 69th Transportation Company. In situations where Shank said he would have “cursed [a soldier] out,” Robinson simply “would make the soldier do his job. That was it.”

John Davis, who owns a Mannheim barbecue restaurant said Robinson “was always quiet.” McKinney “was the one who was in control of everything. She was the bossy one.”

The trial is scheduled to resume Thursday.

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