'Til Death Do Us Part

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". . . She was coming in the bedroom, I don't know," Brian replied. "I gave her a kiss. I think when I grabbed this lucky shirt, when I was putting it on, she was coming around the corner into the bathroom. I gave her a kiss. She gave me her ATM card."

Brian also said he'd seen Judi on a couch, then noted that she'd lain in bed with the kids at some point.)

Brian and Courinos took Judi's BMW on their outing. The two have described their next several hours of activity similarly: a stop at the nearby saloon for one beer (the lingerie show was over), then to an automated teller machine, to a supermarket to buy a flask of vodka, a trip through the parking lot of another bar looking for a pal, then finally to the casino.

Phoenix police later collected videotapes from casino officials that showed the men entering the building at 11:43 p.m. Brian says he played poker for hours, leaving Courinos to try his luck on the slots.

About 4 a.m., Brian says, Courinos started bugging him to leave the casino: "He had a 7 o'clock flight, and he had to go home to get his stuff. I was pissed, because I'd just won a couple of big hands. But I told him to go get the freakin' car."

The pair then got stuck in the parking lot for almost an hour -- cameras again confirm this -- when the BMW turned up with a flat tire. They didn't get back to Ahwatukee until about 5:15 a.m. Courinos says he went into the Eftenoffs' home for a few minutes to use the bathroom and/or the phone -- he's not sure.

"The cops asked me if I'd seen the body," says Courinos. "Listen. I might tell a little fib to protect Brian when we went out and did something we weren't supposed to do. But as far as seeing someone lying dead on the floor when I came in -- no way."

Moments after Courinos left, Brian says, he discovered his wife on the bathroom floor. A few months before his arrest this May, he took New Times into the bathroom, and re-created the horrifying scene.

"She's crouched in a kind of fetal position, with her face down into the carpet," Brian said, placing himself in exactly the same position as he claimed to have found Judi. "I roll her over, but she has no muscle control. Lividity has occurred, and, in retrospect, she's obviously been dead a few hours. She looks black and blue at first. I touch her, and I get a sound. I think she's alive. I immediately freak out, and I try to run and catch Nick, but he's gone. I call 911 and sprint down the hall to see if the kids are all right. . . .

"I worked on Judi for about 18 minutes. There was rigor on her arms, but I didn't want to realize it. I pretty much knew after about five minutes that she was gone. I grabbed a tongue scraper -- anything that would fit in there -- to try to clear her throat. Didn't work. Mouth to mouth. Blood flew in my face. Natalie is watching, and she's on the phone with 911. I got sick, then went back. I was sweating like a bitch. The paramedics come by, with a cop. . . . They put me outside. I'm starting to think, 'Oh, fuck, this looks bad.' It looks bad that my wife's dead, and I'm feeling people already cast doubt upon me. . . . Someone says how bad they're feeling for Judi. I'm thinking, 'Why don't you feel sorry for me? I'm the one who's gonna have to raise these kids, and look at the mess I'm in.' I mean, I loved my wife and all, and I'm thinking it's a murder. The sun comes up when I'm outside. There's a cloud over my head, literally, one cloud."

That cloud may have gone by the name of Joe Petrosino.

Detective Petrosino didn't know at first if he was working a homicide. But if Judi's death did turn out to be murder, the detective had a prime suspect -- Brian Thomas Eftenoff.

Petrosino at first also included Natalie Lemmon on his list of possible co-conspirators, especially after a colleague reported an odd occurrence while interviewing Lemmon at the crime scene. "As I spoke with Natalie," Officer Michael Thorley wrote, "the victim's husband walked toward us. I observed him look at Natalie and pull his index finger across his throat in what appeared to me to be a throat-cutting gesture."

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin