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.
“He sort of came on to me,” Reed said. “It kind of freaked me out. Natural reaction, I pushed him off.”
Reed said he soon began to extort Pollard, telling the older man he would go to the police and make some kind of sexual assault accusations unless he paid up.
“He was pretty compliant,” Reed said. “I was about to turn 16. I got a $50 check.”
Reed said another man, identified only as Justin, solicited oral sex on one occasion while he was over at Pollard's house. He testified that Pollard came on to him a second time.
“After the second advance, I started back up again,” Reed said of his extortion of Pollard.
He said he even brought friends with him on one occasion, and that they all got checks from the victim.
“He seemed to know what was going on,” Reed said. “He knew I wanted to keep it discreet.”
Killer's alleged involvement
It was this connection between Reed and Pollard that led to Battenfield's involvement, Reed said.
Reed testified he met Battenfield at a body shop where they both worked back in the fall. He said the convicted murderer asked to borrow money from him after they got to know each other.
“Why don't I go to get some money from Mr. Pollard and give it to him,” Reed said. “That way I don't lose anything.”
But because his license plate tag was expired at the time, Reed had to ride with Battenfield to Norman.
After parking their truck at some nearby apartments, Reed and Battenfield went to the victim's residence about midnight, Nov. 20.
Once inside Pollard's house, Battenfield attacked the victim as he made drinks for his visitors at his home bar.
“He flies back and hits the fireplace and breaks the glass,” Reed said. “He was asking, ‘Why?' Wondering what's going on. He said take anything ... this is not necessary.”
Reed said he and Battenfield eventually tied the victim to a chair before ransacking his home looking for things to steal.
When it came time to deal with the man they'd just robbed and beaten, Reed said his co-defendant's demeanor changed.
“He was staring at (Pollard), kind of like a lion stares at his prey,” Reed said.
Reed said they eventually decided to kill Pollard. He said he tried unsuccessfully to suffocate the victim with a trash bag and beat him with a police baton until it broke and resembled “a hockey stick.”
The unsuccessful attempts to kill Pollard led to mocking comments from Battenfield.
“He said, ‘I guess you can't do it, so I'm gonna have to do it,” Reed testified.
At some point, Battenfield produced two steak knives, which were ultimately used to kill Pollard, who fought and even bit his assailants despite being secured to an armchair.
“I tried to stab him,” but the blade bent, Reed said.
“He said, ‘Here, let me show you how to do it,'” Reed said. “If you've ever stabbed a frozen chicken or something, that's what it sounds like.”
Pollard finally died following Battenfield's knife attack, the witness said. He said Battenfield then poured ammonia on the victim's face, emptying the bottle.
The two hastily fled the victim's residence and began using the dead man's credit cards, which led to their arrests.
Reed said Battenfield later critiqued his performance during the murder.
“He kind of criticized me like a master does an apprentice,” Reed said.