NORMAN — A convicted murderer's preliminary hearing came to an abrupt halt Thursday when Cleveland County prosecutors' star witness indicated he saw his alter ego present in the courtroom during his testimony.
Brandon Ke Reed, who was in court Thursday to testify against thrice-convicted murderer Billy Dean Battenfield, stunned the courtroom when defense attorneys began to ask him about an alter ego named “Max.”
“He never really has anything positive to say,” Reed said during cross-examination. “He's just a bad influence.”
Reed and Battenfield were arrested in November in the brutal stabbing death of 80-year-old Clair Owen Pollard, who was found dead in his south Norman by a relative who had come to check on him.
Reed told the court that “Max” is a slightly different, slightly older version of himself and that he began seeing him when he was sent to a boarding school a few years ago by his mother. He said “Max” was waiting on him the morning of Pollard's murder after he returned home.
“I don't even understand it,” he said of his alter ego. “I can't even fathom it myself.”
Reed also said he'd seen Pollard, the victim, while he waited to testify Thursday. He said the dead man, who was wearing a gray suit, waved to him.
“He said something but I couldn't hear him,” Reed said while on the witness stand. “He was walking toward the courthouse ... I saw him plain as day.”
The state's star witness, who had earlier described how he and Battenfield brutally killed Pollard after robbing him, said he often saw his dead grandfather, as well.
Following Reed's comments and his admission that “Max” was in the courtroom during his testimony, the judge quickly halted the hearing and issued a gag order. It appears Reed's mental health will have to be evaluated before his testimony can be considered for preliminary hearing purposes.
“How can we trust anything he says,” a defense attorney was overhead saying to the judge. “He is hallucinating right now.”
Since his arrest, the 19-year-old Reed had struck a tentative deal with prosecutors to testify against the much-older Battenfield.
That deal — life with the possibility of parole — now appears to be in jeopardy, although attorneys involved in the case were barred from commenting because of the gag order.
Prosecutors have said they are seeking the death penalty for Battenfield, 59, who was recently released from a Texas prison after serving decades behind bars for a pair of murders in the Dallas area. He also was convicted of a killing in New Mexico in the 1970s.
Before he plunged the court into his inner mind, Reed gave evenhanded testimony about the murder of Pollard, a retired social worker with ties to the University of Oklahoma.
Reed said he met the victim during the summer of 2008 while he was working at a Braum's restaurant in Norman. He said he was 15 at the time.
Pollard was looking for a particular flavor of ice cream, which wasn't in stock at the time, and he gave Reed his business card and told him to call when it showed up. They developed a kind of friendship, with the older man even buying Reed a black “Crocodile Dundee” hat after a trip to Australia.
But Reed said the relationship soon soured. He told the court that Pollard, who was 60 years older, made an unwelcomed sexual advance while he was at the victim's Norman home.