STARKVILLE — Kaylace Beatty Dorman sat on the witness stand Tuesday and recalled the day she watched her boss be murdered right in front of her eyes.
As Dorman sat on a computer on the sales side of the Walmart Vision Center on Jan. 13, 2018, she witnessed Dr. Shauna Witt’s ex-boyfriend, William Thomas “Tommy” Chisholm, enter the store and proceed to the patient room.
Witt was seeing a patient at the Vision Center when Chisholm walked in. After Witt told him to go away, he pulled out a gun. As Witt made for the office exit, Dorman frantically ran to open the door to help her boss escape, but she was too late.
“I remember hearing shots,” Dorman said. “I remember looking at her, looking at Dr. Witt, and I was thinking, ‘She’s going to get away, and then I saw her getting hit. She fell down in the corner right by the door.’”
Chisholm, 44, of Kosciusko, faces a capital murder charge for killing Witt, an optometrist who operated the eye clinic at Walmart on Highway 12. His trial began Tuesday in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court with Judge Lee Howard presiding. If convicted, Chisholm faces life without parole.
In opening statements, District Attorney Scott Colom, who is leading the prosecution, called Chisholm “the worst type of predator.”
“This ain’t a murder mystery,” Colom said. “It’s clear what happened. … It’s about how someone allows their rage and selfishness to get to a point where they would allow someone to do one of the worst things another human can do to another human, which is take their life.”
Throughout the day, Colom called eight witnesses to testify on account of the events that took place the day of the murder, including another one of Witt’s coworkers, Heather Ashley. Calling it the “worst day of her life,” Ashley called 911 informing the dispatcher that Chisholm had shot Witt.
“I explained to them, from what I knew, that my boss had a restraining order against Tommy and that he was there and that he wasn’t supposed to be there,” Ashley said.
Ashley also cited a situation in which Chisholm burned all of Witt’s possessions a month before the murder out of spite of Witt officially ending their relationship. Witt pressed charges against Chisholm and filed a restraining order, which had expired by the day of the murder.
Other first-day testimonies were Kautina Bankhead, the Walmart loss prevention control manager who released surveillance videos to law enforcement; Amberly Dennis, a patient seeing Witt with her 4-year-old daughter at the time of the murder; Ken Murrell Jr., a Walmart customer who recorded police apprehending Chisholm; Sam Wilkes, the emergency medical technician on scene; Lee Kellum, the paramedic on scene; and Scott Lomax, the first officer to arrive at Walmart and one of the officers to apprehend Chisholm.
Colom showed the jury Lomax’s body camera footage from that day. Instead of Chisholm trying to flee the scene, he yelled to the officers, “Kill me. Kill me. Take me out. Kill me.” Other footage shows Chisholm kicking out the back window of Lomax’s patrol car once officers apprehended him.
Chisholm’s Defense Attorney Mark Cliett of West Point opted not to give an opening statement but continuously pointed out to multiple witnesses that Chisholm’s demeanor on the day of the crime was not one of rage or temper, but instead one of calmness and composure, with which the witnesses agreed.
In cross-examination, Cliett focused on Chisholm’s demeanor. He also specially noted any witnesses that referred to Chisholm as seeming “crazy” in their previous written statements.
“There would be nothing he said on that day that made you believe that he came there to hurt her,” Cliett said to Ashley. “His manner of entry, meaning he wasn’t kicking the door in or yelling ‘Where is she? I’m gonna get her,’ anything like that.”
The trial will resume today.