Mary Beth Fisher last of state’s witnesses against McGraw

Published 12:49 am Friday, May 30, 2014

Defendant Travis McGraw (left) and defense attorney Tony Dalton (right) listened to testimony this week in the case against McGraw for the murder of his wife Vanessa Mintz. The state rested its case on Thursday afternoon with the defense scheduled to begin calling witnesses Friday morning. (photo courtesy of CBS News)

Defendant Travis McGraw (left) and defense attorney Tony Dalton (right) listened to testimony this week in the case against McGraw for the murder of his wife Vanessa Mintz. The state rested its case on Thursday afternoon with the defense scheduled to begin calling witnesses Friday morning. (photo courtesy of CBS News)

Mary Beth Fisher has been murder suspect Travis McGraw’s reported ex-mistress for years but as she took the stand Thursday, her testimony didn’t sound much like that of a mistress.

Fisher’s testimony wrapped up the state’s witnesses on Thursday, May 29 with the state resting its case after Fisher’s testimony.

Fisher said she first met McGraw, 47, of Hendersonville, while looking for an apartment after her divorce to her husband. She inquired about some properties through real estate agency Carolina Cottages and McGraw answered her email. The relationship began as professional, with McGraw meeting Fisher to show her properties, but once she found an apartment on Main Street, McGraw helped her move in and the relationship was beginning to blossom, although never made it to a sexual level, according to Fisher.

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Fisher, who was 27 at the time, said early on in the relationship, which was mostly texts and talking, a few dinners out and McGraw stopping by her place of employment at times with Starbucks, she asked McGraw if he was married or had a girlfriend. McGraw responded “no,” Fisher testified.

Fisher said she and McGraw did kiss on a handful of occasions but that was it. She also said their talking and texting always ended by 6 p.m. and she never received an answer as to why.

“We never had a title of any kind,” Fisher said. “We didn’t see each other that much.”

Fisher did say as the relationship progressed in January, she did feel love for McGraw and he told her he loved her and she later reciprocated.

But McGraw went out of town in January for Air Force training and while he was away, Fisher said she learned McGraw was married.

“I immediately picked up the phone and called him,” Fisher said.

Fisher testified that McGraw told her he was married but for the sake of the kids and he and his wife were not living together at the time. Fisher said although she didn’t see it as normal, the explanation was believable at the time.

Fisher said she believed it was on Feb. 17 when McGraw came to her apartment and his phone was vibrating in his pocket. She said she asked McGraw to show her his texts on his phone and she saw one from Vanessa that referred to thanking McGraw for helping her with errands. Fisher said she believed she saw the word, “love,” and she told him “to get out.”

“I was furious,” Fisher testified. “I told him to get in his truck and go.”

Fisher said she later texted him to come get his tools he left at her house but didn’t let him in. She said he showed up at her door “drunk and sad.”

Fisher said she texted McGraw that she didn’t know who his wife was, but if McGraw wants to be with her, then be with her, but to make his choice by Sunday.

McGraw’s wife, Vanessa Mintz was found murdered the morning of Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, with shotgun wounds to the elbow and the right eye.

Fisher said she called McGraw on Saturday just to check in and that was when he told Fisher she must not have heard that his wife had been shot and killed. Fisher said McGraw didn’t give any details about how.

It wasn’t until the Monday after the murder, Fisher said, that she saw McGraw again, saying “he wasn’t upset, hadn’t cried but wasn’t upbeat either.”

On the Tuesday after the murder, Fisher said McGraw came to her apartment and she asked him how he was feeling about everything.

Fisher said McGraw answered that he felt relief for Vanessa, because of her financial problems.

Fisher also discussed a trip to Tybee Island, Ga. McGraw had mentioned taking with Fisher the week after the murder, telling her he needed to get out of town. Fisher said she first told McGraw he needed to check with his attorney before leaving town. Fisher said McGraw later told her his attorney said he could go out of town.

“I called and cancelled the reservation because I felt something wrong about the whole thing,” Fisher testified.

She said it was about that time that McGraw was arrested for Mintz’ murder. She said she has not seen or spoken to him since, but for the first month after his arrest she received letters from McGraw from prison. She said in the letters, McGraw apologized for lying, said that he wanted her to wait for him and some letters contained “nasty sexual things.”

Other than Fisher’s testimony on Thursday, the jury also heard testimony from former senior forensic firearms analyst with the N.C. State Bureau of Investigations (SBI), Shane Greene, who said it was his opinion a spent shell found at the crime scene was fired from McGraw’s Mossberg camouflage 12-gauge shotgun retrieved from him home.

The test shell Greene compared the crime scene shell to, he said, matched microscopic fire-pin impression and ridge-face details.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Tony Dalton questioned why Greene used 4-shot load shells to test the gun while the spent shell at the crime scene was a 6-shot load.

Greene answered that it was part convenience because that’s what the lab had on hand, but the difference in loads did not affect the analysis and the 4-shot shells would have more revealing details to examine.

Dalton has opposed allowing Greene’s testimony questioning the lab’s ability to declare a match and to rule out all other guns in the world.

“Is it true that the Mossberg 500 is one of the most popular shotguns,” Dalton asked Greene,” with 10 million manufactured and sold by many outlets?”

Greene responded those statistics wouldn’t surprise him.

Dalton also asked Greene if he does levels in his analysis, such as he is 80 percent sure or 50 percent sure.

“If I state something on my report I’m 100 percent sure of my opinion,” Greene said.

Dalton also asked Greene if he had an error rate.

Greene said on one test he has taken numerous times he has, “never received any incorrect answers on any of these.”

Following the state resting its case, Dalton motioned to dismiss the case, which Judge Tommy Davis denied. Dalton said there was insufficient evidence presented to proceed.

“There was no evidence of premeditation,” Dalton told the judge. “There was no evidence really that this man has committed any crime.”

Dalton then said he and McGraw were in the process of determining if McGraw is going to testify on his own behalf. Davis reviewed with McGraw that if he does testify he will be giving up his right to remain silent and said McGraw should realize if he does testify there are risks involved. Davis said the state will be able to cross-examine McGraw as well as inquire about a lot of areas of McGraw’s life.

McGraw indicated that he understood, saying, “we’re in discussions presently.”

Mintz, 53, was found murdered at the Saluda Mountain Lodge on the morning of Feb. 19, 2011 after she worked the night shift at the family-owned lodge where she served as the general manager as well as being a real estate agent in Hendersonville.

Mintz’ family and friends have filled the courtroom everyday of the trial, which began on Monday, May 19. McGraw has also had support, including his mother and father and a few other family members sitting directly behind him during the trial.

The defense will begin calling witnesses on Friday, May 30 at 9:30 a.m.