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The Girl Next Door

A young mother admits she pumped four bullets into her unarmed ex-husband in an Alabama parking lot -- what is up for debate is why

Produced by Chris Young Ritzen, Susan Mallie, Judy Rybak, Liza Finley and Marc Goldbaum and Claire Anderson

[This story first aired on Nov. 22, 2014. It was updated on July 18, 2015.]

(CBS News) NORTHPORT, Alabama -- Tracey Grissom says that when she shot her ex-husband, Hunter Grissom, at the Binion Creek boat landing in Northport, Alabama, she feared for her life -- a fear she says she'd felt many times before.

"He had hurt me. He had done a lot of things to me. I didn't want him to be dead. I still don't want him dead," Tracey told "48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty.

"What went through your mind when you saw him on the ground?" Moriarty asked.

"That I was in trouble," Tracey replied.

"You had never been in trouble before in your life," Moriarty noted.

"No," she said.

Tracey, a 32-year-old mother of two, says it was self defense; the state says it was murder.

Tracey Grissom interrogation: I never thought I'd kill him. I always thought he'd kill me. I thought he'd kill me. I thought he'd ..." [hits her head against the wall.]

She met Hunter Grissom in 2003. Tracey was just 21, a young mother to son James Michael and going through a divorce.

"He absolutely loved my son. That to me made all the difference in the world," she said of Hunter.

Melanie Garner, Hunter's mother, remembers it as love at first sight. "He was sucked in immediately," she said.

Hunter was two years younger than Tracey. When the couple eloped in 2004, Garner felt it was too soon.

"He was young. He had just turned 20. And just certainly nowhere near ready," she said.

Eight months later, the marriage was in trouble.

"I had caught him smoking marijuana," Tracey explained. "Doing illegal things could cause a problem and I couldn't risk losing my son over."

After threatening him with divorce, Tracey says Hunter promised to stop using marijuana and their relationship improved so much that Tracey leveraged everything she owned so they could start a business together.

"I took out an equity line to start a company, which was Grissom Construction. It was all in my name," she told Moriarty.

grissomfamily1280.jpg
Hunter and Tracey Grissom, with children James Michael and Anna Grace
Tracey Grissom

And they had a child of their own, Anna Grace.

"We had tried to have a child for quite some time. We actually had five miscarriages before we had her," Tracey said. "She was premature. Her heart and lungs were not developed."

"That's a stressful time," Moriarty commented.

"A very stressful time," Tracey agreed.

What's more, she says, Hunter appeared to be acting strangely. So Tracey, a registered nurse, says she gave him an over-the-counter drug test.

"It showed marijuana, Oxycontin, opiates, methamphetamines," she told Moriarty. "I then realized that his addiction, obviously, was way past what I ever dreamed that it was."

Tracey filed for divorce in the summer of 2010. And over time, she says, Hunter became abusive.

"He knocked me to the floor and hit me ... all over my body. I ended up with a black eye. I had bruised shoulders," she said.

Even after Hunter moved out, their divorce agreement allowed him access to the house. So Tracey says the beatings continued ... although no one witnessed them and Tracey never reported them.

"You could've gone to the police. [And said,] 'This man is hitting me,'" said Moriarty.

"I was told if I went to the police, he would kill me. And so that to me wasn't even an option," said Tracey.

Tracey's friend, Loran Richards, was concerned when she saw that Tracey had a black eye and confronted her.

"I started to notice some things that I would question her about ... bruising and things like that," Richards said. "And I said, 'Now Tracey. You may have some bad luck. But nobody is that unlucky. ...Do not give me a lame excuse. 'What happened? You have not fallen on a baseball in your eye socket.'"

And then on the night of Nov. 22, 2010, when Hunter arrived to take care of the children, Tracey says he flew into a rage when she told him she had spent the night with a new boyfriend.

"He told me that he was gonna kill me," she said.

Tracey says that at around 10 p.m. that night, Hunter took her to the bedroom, bound her legs, raped her and then threw her against the bathtub.

"I was knocked unconscious," she said.

Tracey says she regained consciousness around 4 a.m. The kids were asleep downstairs and Hunter was gone.

"I called Hunter. I told him that I was bleeding and that I was hurt and that I needed help. And he told me, 'F--- you. I hope you die,'" she said in tears.

When Tracey went to the hospital, police were notified and Hunter was later arrested for rape, sodomy, kidnapping and domestic violence.

"And at that point, I feared for my life. And I feared for my children's life," she said.

Hunter was allowed out on bail, so Tracey got a restraining order against him, purchased a handgun and carried it with her everywhere.

"It was only a matter of time until he came after us," said Tracey.

Tracey took photos the night of the alleged attack and texted them to Loran Richards. Later, both she and Tracey took more.

At the same time, Tracey says Hunter stopped paying spousal support and his daughter's expenses.

"I lost - everything," she said, her voice breaking. "My world just fell apart."

Tracey says she was told that Hunter wasn't working, but she didn't believe it.

And that's what led to the fateful morning of May 15, 2012.

Tracey got behind the wheel again and took "48 Hours" for the drive that changed her life.

She says she was on her way to an interview for a nursing job when she became distracted.

"There's a break in the trees. And to the right side was a large toll boat that had a billboard sign on the side that said Grissom Construction," she pointed out to Moriarty. "And I immediately, within about a 30-second period, made probably the stupidest mistake of my life. And that was to go in the parking lot to take a picture."

She says she wanted a photo to show that Grissom Construction was indeed up and running.

"I was getting ready to take the picture and when I looked up he was standing almost directly towards the front of the boat trailer. He was looking back directly at me. He had this face, that's like mean - just, I don't know how to describe it. I mean, I see it over and over like it's right there all the time. He flipped me the bird, which to me was kinda like, 'Yeah I'm workin. Screw you.' And at that point, I panicked."

"He's walking towards you?" Moriarty asked Tracey.

"Yes. He's now within five foot of coming at my car like he was gonna bust my window out," she said.

In her lap was the gun she bought 18 months earlier. Tracey stepped out of the car and began shooting.

"I mean I just opened the door," she said. "The next thing I remember is a click."

Tracey had emptied her entire gun -- six shots. Four of the shots hit Hunter and brought him face down on the pavement.

Then she called 911:

Operator: Your name is Tracey?

Tracey Grissom: Yes.

Operator: Ok. And you killed your husband?

Tracey Grissom: Ex-husband. Yes.

Operator: Ex-husband. How did you kill him?

Tracey Grissom: I shot him.

Operator: Do you have the gun?

Tracey Grissom: I got the gun.

Operator: What kind of gun do you have?

Tracey Grissom: I couldn't take it no more [crying].

Operator: OK, calm down.

Tracey Grissom: I couldn't take it no more.

THE SHOOTING OF HUNTER GRISSOM

Tracey Grissom was not the first person to call 911 the morning Hunter Grissom was killed. As it turns out, there were witnesses to what happened on the dock that day.

William Dockery to 911: My boss just got shot. Somebody just pulled up and shot my boss. ...She's in a gold -- a little gold Chevrolet. I don't know if she's reloadin' or what.

William Dockery and his brother, Dale, both worked for Hunter building docks on Lake Tuscaloosa.

"He was a good friend. The best boss anybody could ever ask for. It's the only job I've had in my life that I enjoy goin' to work every day, enjoy the man I was workin' for," said Will.

The three men were getting a boat out of the water onto a trailer when Dale Dockery first noticed that gold Chevrolet. And then saw it move directly behind Hunter's truck.

"The car obviously wasn't in park 'cause they had to-- to hit the brakes again," said Dale.

Will Dockery didn't realize the driver was Hunter's ex-wife, but he saw the look on his boss's face.

"There was some fear in his eyes. You know, he knew there was fixin' to be some kind of confrontation. And-- he looked directly at me and told me to call the police," he said.

Just as Will was pulling his phone out of his pocket...

"He looked at me with an even more serious face and said, 'Call the f----in' law,'" he recalled. "And that's when I went ahead and started dialin'. And by that time, she was gettin' out and startin' to shoot."

"Hunter started running. Him and my brother took off runnin'," said Dale.

Dale ran toward the water, hiding in a boat. When he looked back, Hunter was on the ground. Moments later, Will finally managed to hit "send" on his 911 call.

William Dockery: She's still sittin' in the car with a gun. I don't wanna go around.

911 Operator: OK, you stay where you are. And we're gettin' help on the way for him, OK?

William Dockery: I don't want him to die. He's got a little girl and all.

911 Operator: You do see the cops comin'?

William Dockery: I hear some sirens now.

911 Operator: Do you hear some sirens?

William Dockery: I don't see anybody yet, but I hear some sirens.

Finally, in a poignant moment caught on a police car dash cam, the brothers were reunited just feet away from Hunter's lifeless body.

Tracey was yards away on her own 911 call:

Tracey Grissom to 911 [crying]: I just pulled up, I saw him and I pulled up and I shot him.

If you remember, Tracey told "48 Hours" Hunter made an obscene gesture and was starting to move toward her car.

"Hunter was coming towards my vehicle in an aggressive manner-- and was within three to five foot of me," she told Moriarty.

But Tracey doesn't tell the 911 operator Hunter was coming toward her and she never says it to investigators hours later:

Tracey Grissom to investigators: I don't...I don't know what happened. I don't know why I did it.

"He never made a single motion towards her. Never raised his hand -- any of that. The only motion he was makin' was gettin' away from her," said Will.

Hunter's mom believes the Dockery brothers' version of events and says the crime scene report proves it.

"Twelve feet. Twelve feet from the first shot to where Hunter stood, and there was blood at that first point -- 12 feet," said Melanie Garner.

"Is it possible that he was coming after her, that he was going to hit her? Is that at all possible? "Moriarty asked Garner.

"I don't see how he could hit her at 12 feet," she replied.

What's more, if Tracey was trying to get a photograph of the Grissom Construction sign, why would she pull behind it? Shortly after Hunter was shot to death, the sheriff's department came to Melanie Garner's office to inform her in person.

"I immediately started saying -- I said, 'The bitch did it. The bitch did it. The bitch did it,'" she told Moriarty.

That's shocking, but Hunter's mother believes her former daughter-in-law is dangerous.

"Borderline demonic. I mean, I absolutely believe -- that she is that troubled," said Garner.

Hunter's aunt, Gina Prisock, says Tracey had a motive: she wanted to kill him before the rape case went to court.

"Hunter had moved on. There was some court dates coming up that would prove that Hunter was innocent. There was court dates coming up that he would get visitation to his daughter. She had a lot to lose," said Prisock.

"I know that's a hard question to ask of a mom. Is it at all possible that your son abused Tracey?" Moriarty asked Garner.

"Oh, I don't believe so. I don't believe so for a minute," she replied.

"He did not have an abusive, an angry bone in his body. In fact, we kind of laughed at him because he was too laid-back," added Prisock.

In 2011, Hunter was arrested for marijuana possession, a misdemeanor. But, [his mom says] there is no evidence he ever did harder drugs. What's more, his mother says, if anyone was abused, it was Hunter.

"I fully believe that Hunter was abused by her," said Garner.

Just weeks before the alleged rape, Tracey turned up at one of Hunter's job sites.

"She's screaming, jumping on him ... said something about him having another girlfriend and used the expression about, 'You are mine. I'll kill you. I'll kill you. You are mine,'" said Garner.

Garner believes Tracey's rape accusation is completely false. But then what about those graphic pictures of Tracey with deep bruises and that head wound? Hunter told his mother the cut on Tracey's head was the result of an accidental fall.

"You're saying your son didn't do any of that?" Moriarty asked Garner.

"I don't think he did," she replied.

"That would mean she would have had to do that to herself," Moriarty noted.

"Absolutely," Garner said.

So was Tracey Grissom a liar who killed in cold blood or a domestic abuse victim and loving mother? It will be 12 strangers -- a jury -- who will decide.

THE TRIAL OF TRACEY GRISSOM

It was early August 2014, just over two years since Hunter Grissom had been gunned down by his ex-wife, Tracey, and her trial was finally about to begin. It was a moment that Hunter's mother, Melanie Garner, had been dreading.

"I knew that it was gonna be hard. You know, I even referenced to some people, some friends ... that I thought the trial would be worse than the death. And to some degree, it was," she told Erin Moriarty.

Tracey's brother, Travis Waters, flew in from L.A. to sit on the defendant's side of the courtroom.

"Walking into the courtroom was-- was tough," Walters said. "To sit down and see the court divided ... a family divided ... a family that had ... spent time together ... shared grandkids."

The photos, taken by the Tuscaloosa News, are all "48 Hours" have of the trial. TV cameras were not allowed inside.

"Going to trial, it's an honor to represent her," said Warren Freeman, Tracey's defense attorney.

Even as the trial began, Freeman was hoping the prosecutor -- or judge -- would reduce the murder charge to manslaughter.

"In my mind, this was a manslaughter case," he told Moriarty.

Asked why, he said, "Because there's no intent. ... I could easily, easily see this being, at the worst, manslaughter. At its best, it was self-defense."

The charge would stand and the jury would have to decide whether Tracey was guilty of murder or whether she was just defending herself. Freeman hoped to support her defense case by showing the jury those dramatic photos.

"I explained, 'I'm not going to try a rape case, judge. I simply need to ... demonstrate to a jury what my client's state of mind was at the time of the offense," Freeman explained.

But the judge would not allow it.

Covering the trial for the Tuscaloosa News, Stephanie Taylor says the state argued the motive was money.

"The prosecutors claimed that Tracey shot Hunter to collect a $103,000 insurance policy that she had on him," said Taylor.

The evidence? A recording of Tracey's call to the life insurance company ... a call she made on May 14, 2012, the day before she shot Hunter:

MetLife [Call 1]: "Thank you for calling MetLife, this is Pam. May I please have your name?"

Tracey Grissom: "Tracey Grissom."

"They said that she was angry that he had stopped making payments that ... they had agreed to in their divorce," said Taylor.

Tracey Grissom: "...It's Hunter Grissom..."

MetLife [Call 1]: "Thank you so much, and can you please verify his date of birth?"

"A representative from the insurance company testified during the trial that Tracey called the day before Hunter was killed to-- verify that they had her correct address," Taylor continued.

MetLife [Call 1]:"Is there anything else I can do for you today?

Tracey Grissom: "That's gonna be it!"

"On May 14th you called that insurance company. Why?" Moriarty asked Tracey.

"Well, May 14th was just like any other day. However, I had moved four different times. Me and my children were running. We were running from Hunter," she replied. "So I had called the company to let them know that they had my old address and to make an address change."

"She also called a few weeks afterwards to inform them that he had died," said Taylor.

MetLife [Call 2]: "And how can I help you today?"

Tracey Grissom: "Well, I was actually calling because I didn't know what I needed to do ... Hunter passed away May 15th and I actually am going a court case right now because it was due to self-defense..."

"Even through the times when she's screamin' that she's destitute and has no money ... she continued to pay life insurance premium," said Garner.

"I really thought that that was just the prosecution pulling at straws to have a motive," Walters said. "And my sister's smart. But I don't-- I don't think my sister concocted a story, just so she could get insurance money. ... But that's all they had."

But that wasn't all they had. Prosecutors also called a pathologist who testified that Hunter's wounds indicated that when Tracey shot him, he was not coming at her -- he was running away.

"Tracey, I have to ask you this. Is it possible ... that you misread that situation and you shot and killed a man who just intended to get away from you?" Moriarty asked.

"He was comin' towards me. So no, I do not feel like he was tryin' to get away. I feel like he was -- he was fixin' to kill me," Tracey replied.

"If in fact he was coming at you and you were in fear for your life, why didn't you tell the police that? You had an opportunity when you called 911," Moriarty noted. "You had an opportunity when you left the scene and went to the police. Why didn't you tell them, 'He was coming after me. I had no choice. '"

"I know I was an absolute wreck at that point. I don't remember so much. I remember the initial shot and then I remember a click, which undoubtedly was the emptying of the gun," Tracey replied.

Still, Freeman did get the pathologist to admit that it was also possible Hunter was coming towards Tracey when she started shooting.

entrywoundsstory.jpg
Tracey Grissom unloaded her entire gun -- six shots in all. Four shots hit Hunter Grissom: one on his shoulder, one on his forearm and two in his back.
Warren Freeman

"Think about this just a moment. You had a shot here. And then you had another shot here," Freeman said, pointing above the elbow of his right arm and to his right shoulder. "And then two that were in the back. ...What made sense to me, and he said this would line up with his findings, was that somebody could've been coming forward, then turned after the first shot was fired."

"If it was not her intentions to murder Hunter, and the first bullet hit his arm, couldn't she have stopped then? What about the second bullet that entered his back? Couldn't she have stopped then?" Garner told Moriarty. "Six were fired. Four hit Hunter."

Detective: How many times did you shoot your husband?

Tracey Grissom: Until it wouldn't shoot no more.


"She unloaded the gun! She, in interrogation, she said she fired till it wouldn't fire anymore!" Prisock exclaimed.

Freeman claims that Tracey shot Hunter because she was suffering from post-traumatic stress from earlier abuse, but he couldn't find an expert who would say that in court.

So now there really was only one way to get jurors to understand why Tracey pulled the trigger. Tracey had to take the stand and tell them herself.

"That was the only way to let them know that I was defending myself," she said. "And the only way that I felt they would understand what I was goin' through that day."

Tracey was allowed to tell the jury about the alleged rape and that she lived in fear of Hunter. But she could not show those graphic photos.

Asked how she felt about that, Tracey tells Moriarty she was" devastated."

"I don't think anybody could understand what I was goin' through without knowing what I had already been through," she said.

Tracey's trial lasted only two days, and then, just before the case went to the jury, the judge made a stunning reversal -- out of the blue.

"The judge -- said that he believed that this was a manslaughter case," said Freeman.

If both sides could agree, the judge would let the jury consider a charge of manslaughter. When the prosecution agreed, it was then up to Tracey.

"It was my decision," she said. "And I felt good about what had been said and what had been told in court. And I still didn't feel like I had done anything wrong and I still didn't feel like I would be convicted of murder."

"She said, 'Do you think they'll convict me of manslaughter if we do that?' I said, 'Yes.' And she said, 'I don't wanna do it,'" said Freeman.

Tracey chose not to take the lesser option.

"And I understood her reasons," said Freeman.

"That's a big gamble, though, Warren, a big gamble," Moriarty noted.

"That's a huge gamble," he said.

EVEN MORE SURPRISES

As Tracey Grissom waited for to hear her fate, she remained optimistic that the jury would see it her way and would not convict her of murdering Hunter Grissom.

"I did think the jury would understand the fear that I had that day and that the fear I had that he was going to hurt or kill me," Tracey told Moriarty. "I feel like they knew that there was more to the story, but it wasn't allowed in court."

Asked if he thinks there will be a hung jury in the case, defense attorney Warren Freeman told Moriarty,

"Yes, at least. I think that's what Tracey felt. That the worst that's going to happen here is a hung jury."

But just 90 minutes later, they get word the jury had reached a verdict.

"I was standing between my brother, Hunter's dad, and my nephew. And we were holdin' hands," said Gina Prisock, Hunter's aunt.

"I -- remember that they didn't look at us," Freeman said. "That's not a good sign."

traceyverdict.jpg
Tracey Grissom was found guilty of murdering her ex-husband, Hunter Grissom on Aug. 7, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Tuscaloosa News/Robert Sutton

The judge read the verdict.

"He said, 'Guilty. Guilty of murder.' And I immediately was devastated," Tracey told Moriarty.

Tracey's gamble to not give the jurors the lesser option of manslaughter had failed.

"She just hung her head," Freeman said. "She was picturing that little 5-year-old girl of hers, that would grab her face and say, 'Mama, when are you coming home.'"

Another mother, Hunter Grissom's, forced herself to stay calm.

"We were told that we had to maintain our composure even through that. So that was kinda hard to suppress those feelings," said Garner.

But just moments later, the judge threw a curveball that took everyone in the court by surprise.

"The judge did not revoke my bond. In fact he didn't even raise my bond," she said. "And I was able to walk out of court that day, get in my truck and go home."

Tracey, now a convicted killer, would be allowed out until she was sentenced. And the surprises didn't end there.

"A day after the trial, a juror calls me. And she's very upset," said Freeman.

After the trial, one of the jurors, Janice Kelly, read newspaper accounts of the rape allegations Tracey made against Hunter. She told Freeman that she would never have convicted Tracey had she seen those graphic photos.

"There's two sides to every story. We didn't know why she was so scared of this man," Janice Kelley told reporters.

"You feel you made a mistake?" a reporter asked.

"Yeah, I feel like I made a mistake. If I had to do it over again it'd be a hung jury," Kelley replied.

At the sentencing, with no jury in the room, the judge will allow Tracey's attorney to introduce those graphic pictures of her injuries. Freeman hopes it will convince the judge to be lenient.

"He knows that she was raped. He knows the brutality that she went through," Freeman explained. "And I'll be asking him to take that in consideration. This isn't just a normal murder sentencing."

The judge properly kept out the photos from the trial because they are evidence of the rape allegation and Hunter Grissom never lived long enough to defend himself against that accusation. If he had, his family and friends say we would have heard a very different story.

"Do you believe that Tracey Grissom has told the truth of what happened?" Moriarty asked Standridge.

"I do not," she replied.

Shelly Standridge was Hunter Grissom's lawyer. She says Hunter denied ever raping or assaulting Tracey. But he did admit that on the night of the alleged rape, he and his ex wife did have consensual, rough sex.

"Do you believe if Hunter Grissom had gone on trial for rape that he would've been convicted?" Moriarty asked.

"Absolutely not," said Standridge.

"Do you think Tracey knew that?"

"Probably."

This is what Hunter said happened the night of the alleged rape:

"So that night ... Hunter said that she was depressed and claiming she was going to kill herself," Standridge said. "She was saying she wanted their relationship to work."

Tracey was taking the anti-anxiety drug Klonopin, and according to Hunter, on the night of November 22, he watched Tracey take more than her prescribed dose.

"It's similar to alcohol where your balance is impaired, your speech is impaired," Standridge explained.

And that's the reason Hunter said that Tracey fell and cut her head. It was an accident and the injury seemed minor. Sometime around 10:30 p.m., Hunter said he left and went to his father's house. He confirms that Tracey called him much later -- at 3:20 a.m., but this is how Hunter described that call:

"He said that she threatened him," Standridge said. "If you don't want the responsibility of these children, I'll make it to where you don't ever get to see them again.'"

"Then why would she cry rape if it didn't occur?" Moriarty asked.

"I don't know what her motive is. But I will tell you that she told me under oath that she was upset that he had a girlfriend," Standridge replied.

Hunter said he heard nothing about an assault or rape until he was arrested almost 12 hours later.

"So it comes down to he said, she said," said Moriarty.

"But what she says is not true," Standridge said. "I have never found anything independently that verified any of her claims."

Start with Tracey's claim to police that she was thrown against the bathtub around 10 p.m., and was unconscious until about 4 a.m. the next morning.

"But her phone records show she was on the phone all night, so she was never unconscious," Standridge said. "She was also using her data at 10:42 that night. She was using it again at 10:50 that night. ... She sends a text to her boyfriend at 1:49 a.m. She sends a text to her friend at 2:07 a.m. She sends another text to her boyfriend at 2:07 a.m."

How does Tracey explain it? She blames the calls on Hunter.

"All I do know is I was not the only person using my phone that night," she said.

Tracey insists she was unconscious, but Standridge quotes from medical records that describe Tracey's head wound as "purely superficial." She says only one suture was needed.

Those same records also seem to contradict Tracey's claim that the rape left her with internal tears and while Tracey did have bruises on her ankle and legs, the photos taken by police at the emergency room look nothing like the photos that Tracey and her friend Loran Richards took days later.

The photo on the left shows an area of Tracey Grissom's body that investigators took on Nov. 23, the night of the alleged rape. The photo on he right was taken by Tracey of the same area, just days after the alleged attack.
The photo on the left shows an area of Tracey Grissom's body that investigators took on Nov. 23, the night of the alleged rape. The photo on he right was taken by Tracey of the same area, just days after the alleged attack.
48 Hours

"Something didn't add up," Standridge told Moriarty, holding up two photos of Tracey's bruised body.

One photo is an area of Tracey's body that investigators took the night of the alleged rape. The other photo was taken by Tracey of the same area, just days after the alleged attack.

"I mean this shows discoloration here," Moriarty said, pointing to the first photo. "You see nothing there," she said of the second photo.

Warren says that Tracey was on blood thinners which caused her to bruise more easily. But he says it doesn't explain the severity of her injuries. But then what about this ...a deep bruise on Tracey's inner thigh that isn't seen either in police photos or those taken by Loran Richards. It shows up in a photo that according to digital records was taken on December 9th - more than two weeks later.

"But if Hunter Grissom didn't cause these injuries, then either someone else did or she did it to herself?" Moriarty asked Standridge.

"Well, she was a nurse. Once of her listed specialties is wound care," she replied.

Standridge says Tracey isn't just lying about the alleged rape. She says that Tracey knew Hunter was working. Two months before the murder, Standridge says, Tracey's own lawyer had submitted a list of 18 jobs that Hunter had been doing.

"I don't know what her attorney's time frame was on that, but I tell you she had not seen that document," said Freeman.

Which story will the judge believe at sentencing? Tracey Grissom's future depends on it.

"So how are you trying to spend these last few days?" Moriarty asked Tracey.

"I'm trying to prepare for the worst, but hopin' for the best," she said.

"When you say, 'prepare for the worst,' what's the worst?" Moriarty asked.

"Life in prison," she replied.

THE SENTENCING

This is the day when Tracey Grissom finds out her future -- if and when she'll see her children again.

She bids a tearful farewell to friends and makes a last, tearful call to her brother, Travis Walters.

One month after being found guilty of murdering her ex-husband, Hunter, Tracey heads back to court for sentencing.

The prosecution is asking for 40 years. Tracey is hoping for 20, served mostly on probation. It's all riding on whether the judge believes that she suffered abuse at the hands of her husband and then shot him dead believing he would do it again.

"I hope that he will take the mitigating things that -- have happened to me and the things that happened to me prior to, you know, May 2012, into consideration, even though they weren't allowed into court, as why that happened that day. And to allow me to go home to my babies," Grissom told Moriarty.

Attorney Warren Freeman argues the battered woman defense, calling social worker Marian Waters, Tracey's rape counselor, to the stand. Cameras were allowed to shoot through the window but without sound.

"I wanted the court to know ... that she had been through a very, very brutal beating and sexual assault," Waters told Moriarty. "Because that's how I feel. That's what I think happened."

Also on the stand is that juror who had a change of heart after hearing about the alleged rape. She tells the judge she wishes she had instead hung the jury.

"As you heard from one of the jurors that was here, they wanted to hear more about the rape. They want -- they felt like they were not allowed to see enough of the evidence," Warren told reporters.

Tracey's friend, Loran Richards, says she has seen enough.

"I believe that he ... raped and sodomized her. And I believe that she felt like he was going to hurt her, abuse her, rape her, assault her, kill her that day," she said.

Richards believes that -- even when confronted for the first time with those contrasting photos taken by investigators.

"Did that concern you at all that the pictures taken right afterwards of Tracey's injuries don't seem as severe as the injuries that she shows up with at your house two days later?" Moriarty asked.

"It didn't concern me and it didn't surprise me ...because bruises progress. You know I watched that same exact bruise continue to progress," she replied.

grissonsentencingoath.jpg
Tracey Grissom takes the witness stand at her sentencing hearing for the 2012 murder of her ex-husband at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse in Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Sept. 2, 2014.
Tuscaloosa News/Erin Nelson

Then Tracey gets another chance to tell her story. She describes the gruesome details of the alleged rape and the terrible fear that she says haunted her life.

"I feel 100 percent that if I had not done what I did I'd be dead and the situation would be totally different," she told Moriarty.

For five hours, the judge listened. Then he made a decision that made nobody happy.

Tracey Grissom got 25 years. It's not the maximum, but not the minimum either.

But Melanie Garner believes Tracey is where she should be.

"I feel like Tracey's a very, very, troubled young woman," she told Moriarty. "And I just feel like that she is exactly what she was convicted of, and that she is a murderer."

Hunter's mom will now raise that little 5-year-old girl who will grow up with only a distant memory of the father who loved her.

"She wants to hear her father's voice ... she knows what he looks like because we have so many photos of him. But she said 'I want to hear my daddy's voice,'" Garner said. "It's a great sadness that he's not there for her."

Despite the murder conviction, despite the evidence against her and despite the 25-year sentence, Tracey Grissom still maintains she's a victim, not a cold-blooded killer. It's a story she is sticking to -- even behind bars.

"It's no longer about me anymore," she said. "Domestic violence is such an epidemic in this country. ... Know that it does happen to the girl next door."

On July 2, 2015, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously upheld Tracey Grissom's murder conviction. Her defense has filed for another hearing.

She will be eligible for parole in 2029; she'll be 47. Anna Grace will be 20 years old.

  • Erin Moriarty

    Correspondent, "48 Hours"