Prosecutor Barry Steelman told a Criminal Court jury Wednesday that Tory Nelson Nocho should spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering two fellow workers at the Burger King on Highway 153.
But defense attorney Christian Coder said someone else was involved in the brutal killings on the day after Christmas 2002.
Nocho earlier confessed to the murders of shift manager Lavonda Kay Holderby, 41, and her niece, Donna Holderby, 16, and pleaded guilty.
A jury in the courtroom of Judge Steve Bevil is hearing testimony and will decide whether he gets life without the possibility of parole or a life term in which he would be eligible for parole consideration after serving 51 years.
Leonard Holderby, who had been married to Kay Holderby for almost 21 years, said he went to the Burger King that morning after getting off a night shift at K-Mart on Highway 58. He said his wife and her niece were there along with Nocho, who was cooking.
He said nothing seemed out of the ordinary when he left between 7:30 and 8 a.m.
Mr. Holderby said he received a call from a detective that afternoon and was told he needed to come down because there had been "an accident." He said while driving to the fast food unit he heard on the radio there had been a double murder there.
"I knew it had to be them," he said.
Mr. Holderby said the family is still "very angry" over the murders. He said, "It's changed our entire lives. We hardly go anywhere anymore."
He said of his wife, "You couldn't ask for anybody sweeter." He said he met her after his mother invited her over for dinner on Easter. They later had their first date and got married a week later.
They did not have children, but he said Kay Holderby was "like a mother" to Donna, who was described as mentally challenged.
Barbara Higgins said she and two others went to the Burger King that morning, and Nocho and the two Holderbys were there.
She said Kay Holderby seemed upset, and she said she was looking for Donna. Mrs. Higgins said she looked in both bathrooms and out by the dumpster, but could not locate her.
She said she went back inside, and no one was around. She said, "I called 'Yoohoo.' She said Nocho came out and said she had been found "in the freezer."
Paula Williamson, manager of that unit, said Kay Holderby called her that morning to discuss ordering food. She said she did not indicate anything was wrong, except that one male worker had not shown up.
She said she got a call about 3 p.m. that afternoon from the assistant manager, Kim Bradley, who had gone to the store and found it dark and locked. Ms. Williamson said she told her to go back to the store and wait on police.
Ms. Williamson said she drove to the unit and found it roped off. She said she was told there was one person killed, then was advised it was two. "I almost fainted," she said.
She stated, "I kept saying, 'Where is Tory? Where is Tory?' The next thing they said to me, he did it."
She said she was shown photos of the bodies, but she was only able to identify them "because of the clothes and shapes of the bodies because they were so mutilated."
Prosecutor Steelman said Nocho hit Kay Holderby in the head with a hammer, and he said Donna then tried to get away. He said Nocho caught her and bashed her head against the wall of the freezer. He said Nocho left her, but returned to the freezer and cut her throat. She was left in the freezer and when her body was found "it was basically frozen."
He said Nocho took some money from the store before leaving in Kay Holderby's car.
He said a towel was found at Nocho's residence that had the blood of Kay Holderby on it.
The prosecutor said, "Because of what he did, he deserves nothing less than to go to prison and stay there forever."
Attorney Coder, of the public defender's office, told the jury that Nocho had involvement in the slayings, but "somebody else killed these people."
He said authorities zeroed in on Nocho, "and they didn't look any further."
He said Nocho's mother lived with several different men, including some who abused Nocho and his brother, Jamey Nocho. He said Nocho only met his real father once after he had entered the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home, where he lived from 1990-1995.
Nocho was 23 when the slayings occurred.