Ex-girlfriend offers details at man's trial

Kimberly Wright told a courtroom Monday she might have kept making excuses for Michael Clay, until he used his fists.

When she finally got away from him the morning of Feb. 15, 2006, her family convinced Ms. Wright she had to go to the police. This time she agreed and told deputies Mr. Clay beat her and later ran over a high school student on his way to school.

Mr. Clay's arrest on those charges, which are the only charges to be decided this week by a Richmond County Superior Court jury, led sheriff investigators to consider him a suspect in a series of brutal sexual assaults. One of the attacks left Sherry Rose Murphy, 43, in a coma until her death eight months later.

Mr. Clay has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges he faces. Defense attorney Peter Johnson told the jury in his opening statement that Ms. Wright exaggerated Mr. Clay's behavior and minimized her own role in the domestic dispute.

What happened to the high school student hit by the car was an accident, Mr. Johnson said.

Ms. Wright testified Monday that she dated Mr. Clay for about two years.

He hit, choked, slapped and generally battered her in the past, but she would accept his apologies and pledges of love and take him back, she testified.

When they got into a heated argument on Feb. 15, 2006, he punched her in the face with his fist.

She goaded him with a taunt about the quality of the punch and he hit her with a left and a right, knocking her to the floor, Ms. Wright testified.

Later that morning on their way to medical treatment, she testified, he was driving erratically when she spotted a person crossing the street.

She said she pointed the person out to Mr. Clay, but he ignored the warning.

David Barnes testified he was on his way to the school bus stop when he noticed a black car run a stop sign at East Boundary. It wasn't close enough to concern him initially and he crossed the street, he testified.

But the driver must have accelerated, Mr. Barnes testified. He was hit on the right side of his body, thrown into the windshield and tossed over the top of the car. The car kept going, Mr. Barnes said.

Mr. Barnes suffered bruising and cuts that required more than a dozen stitches. He suffered no permanent physical injury.

Ms. Wright suffered cuts and bruises also, in addition to three fractures of her jaw and the loss of several teeth.

She was unable to take any pain mediations because she was pregnant with Mr. Clay's child at the time.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.