Fort Worth

Fort Worth man claims self-defense in slaying of girlfriend’s ex-husband

Johnny L. Patton is accused of killing his girlfriend’s ex-husband.
Johnny L. Patton is accused of killing his girlfriend’s ex-husband. Star-Telegram archives

A 65-year-old Fort Worth man accused of killing his girlfriend’s former husband planned the killing long before he fired the fatal shot two years ago, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Defendant Johnny Lloyd Patton Jr. pleaded not guilty to a murder charge, and testimony in his trial began Tuesday.

In opening arguments, Patton’s attorney, Alex Tandy, told the jury that Patton killed private investigator Richard Slatkin, 66, in self-defense. Prosecutor Melinda Westmoreland said the killing in Benbrook on Oct. 1, 2013, was planned and fueled by jealousy and control.

The men’s domestic situation was worthy of a soap opera plot. Patton’s girlfriend and Slatkin’s ex-wife, Catherine Slatkin, is about 30 years younger than both men. She has one child fathered by Slatkin and one by Patton’s son. But at the time she was in a romantic relationship with Patton.

“The defendant was jealous,” Westmoreland said. “His jealousy exceeded all bounds. He didn’t like the fact that [Slatkin] still had a good relationship, and that the victim was the father of her first child.”

Tandy argued that Patton was in fear for his life because of multiple murder threats Slatkin had made.

According to Tandy, two weeks before his death, Slatkin confronted Patton’s sister on the street and said: “I want to tell you I’m going to kill your brother as soon as I have an opportunity.”

Prosecutors played recordings of 911 calls Patton made on the day of the killing with a similar theme. Patton, who described himself as an oil and gas businessman, repeatedly told dispatchers that his girlfriend’s ex-husband was intent on killing him.

The first call was received by Fort Worth dispatchers about 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 1. The Fort Worth 911 call center transferred the call to Benbrook police, the city where the shooting occurred at Catherine Slatkin’s residence on Crosslands Road. The last call before the police arrived was received at 2:55 p.m.

“You’ve got to get your people here,” Patton said in the final call. “He's up in my house. I'm going to have to shoot him right now, I’m going to have to shoot him right now, I’m going to have to shoot him right now.”

Then there was a single gunshot, a brief silence and then more talking.

“He said he was going to kill me,” Patton said. “I had to shoot him. He said he was going to kill me.”

The Benbrook police dispatcher asked: “Does he have a weapon? Do you have a weapon?” There was no reply, and for a while there was no sound. And then Patton spoke again.

“I’m here, and he’s out in the street dying,” Patton said.

“You shot him?” the dispatcher asked.

“Yes, he’s dead,” Patton said. “He’s in the street. He was coming down to kill me. He’s a dead man. He was coming to kill me.”

Officers arrived within moments and could be heard on the recording ordering Patton to sit down. They retrieved two handguns in Patton’s possession, police Detective J. Lewallen testified.

When Slatkin’s body was searched, authorities found a small, closed pocketknife. When they searched Slatkin’s vehicle, they found a loaded pistol in the center console, Lewallen said.

Tandy asked Lewallen whether a person who was threatened by a private investigator who is generally armed would have a right to be concerned. Lewallen said yes. But when prosecutor Eric Nickols asked if there was a round in the chamber of Slatkin’s gun, Lewallen said there was not.

“If you’re planning on using a gun, you would normally chamber one,” Lewallen said.

Lewallen testified he believed the 911 calls were a subterfuge used by Patton to substantiate his claim of self-defense.

Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday in state District Judge David Hagerman’s court.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3