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First wife of Texas shooter say he killed dog as a child

  • Tessa Brennaman, 25, spoke out about her ex-husband for the first time Friday
  • She was the first wife of Texas shooter Devin Kelley, who killed 26 on November 5
  • Brennaman says Kelley was battling acute depression and would beat her for the slightest infractions 
  • Woman also says Kelley sexually assaulted her during their brief marriage 
  • She divorced him in October 2012 after Kelley admitted to fracturing her young son’s skull 
  • Kelley is believed to have targeted church for connection to second wife’s family 

Keith Griffith

and
Snejana Farberov For Dailymail.com

The first wife of Texas church killer has revealed disturbing new details about his violent past, including the time he bragged to her about snapping his pet dog’s neck when he was just 10 years old, and then laughing about it.

Tessa Brennaman, 25, broke her silence about her relationship with Devin Kelley in an emotional interview with Inside Edition Friday, recounting how the funny and generous teenage boy she had met while working at a burger joint near San Antonio, Texas, over the years transformed into a violent and abusive man who beat and sexually assaulted her, threatened to kill her and physically abused her infant son.

‘I was terrified, really terrified,’ Brennaman told Inside Edition’s Steven Fabian. ‘He would choke me, punch me, kick me. There would be times where I was on the floor curled up and having to protect my organs because he would be violently kicking me.’

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Tessa Brennaman, 25, sat down for an emotional interview with Inside Edition Friday

Tessa Brennaman, 25, sat down for an emotional interview with Inside Edition Friday

Brennaman discussed her brief and violent marriage to Texas gunman Devin Kelley

Brennaman discussed her brief and violent marriage to Texas gunman Devin Kelley

Wife speaks out: Tessa Brennaman, 25, sat down for an emotional interview with Inside Edition Friday to discuss her brief and violent marriage to Texas gunman Devin Kelley 

Young mom: Brennaman entered the marriage in April 2011 with a nine-month-old son from a previous relationship (pictured) 

Young mom: Brennaman entered the marriage in April 2011 with a nine-month-old son from a previous relationship (pictured) 

Young mom: Brennaman entered the marriage in April 2011 with a nine-month-old son from a previous relationship (pictured) 

Kelley, a US Air Force airman, married Brennaman in April 2011, a week before moving to New Mexico, where he was to serve at the Holloman Air Force Base after being cut from an elite intelligence training program because of poor academic performance.

Brennaman entered the marriage with a nine-month-old son from a previous relationship and Kelley became the boy’s stepfather.

Brennaman said Kelley was battling severe depression and began beating her for even the slightest infractions, like being late for appointments.

The woman also claimed her then-husband sexually assaulted her, but she said those incidents were too graphic and painful to discuss.

‘The most I can say is he did do it against my will and I told him not to and we would do it anyway,’ she said.

During their time together, Brennaman said she was not allowed to go near Kelley’s phone. It was not until later that she found out that her husband had a fake email address and would exchange sexually explicit messages with various women who would send him photos of breasts.

Another red flag for Brennaman was when Kelley boasted to her about killing an animal in cold blood.

‘He was like, “You know, when I was 10 years old, I had a dog and it was play biting me and I snapped his neck and I thought it was really funny,”’ she said with a puzzled look on her face. ‘I was like, who thinks like that?’

Devin Patrick Kelley

Devin Patrick Kelley

Devin Patrick Kelley

Devin Patrick Kelley

Brennaman recalled her terror when Kelley (left and right) flew into a rage over a speeding ticket and put a gun to her head. She divorced him just over a year into their marriage

Abusive: During that incident, Kelley admitted to cracking his stepson's skull three months prior 

Abusive: During that incident, Kelley admitted to cracking his stepson's skull three months prior 

Abusive: During that incident, Kelley admitted to cracking his stepson’s skull three months prior 

Their rocky marriage finally came undone in October 2012, after an incident in which Brennaman said her husband pulled a gun on her in the car after she warned him about driving too fast on a remote highway.

‘And he had a gun in his holster right here and he took that gun out, and he put it to my temple and he told me, “Do you want to die? Do you want to die?”’ Brennaman recalled.

Puzzled: Brennaman said Kelley had once bragged to her about snapping his pet dog's neck when he was just 10 years old, which he said was funny to him 

Puzzled: Brennaman said Kelley had once bragged to her about snapping his pet dog's neck when he was just 10 years old, which he said was funny to him 

Puzzled: Brennaman said Kelley had once bragged to her about snapping his pet dog’s neck when he was just 10 years old, which he said was funny to him 

During that fateful drive, Brennaman said Kelley also came clean to her about beating her infant son and causing the baby to be hospitalized with a skull fracture three months prior, which Tessa had previously thought was due to an accident.

Wiping away tears, Brennaman said she was angry at Kelley, which led her to turn him into the police.

In November 2012, Kelley, then 23, was court-martialed and pleaded guilty to hitting, choking, kicking and pulling her hair, as well as fracturing the skull of her young son.

He was confined to a military prison for one year in the case, and received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force.

The Air Force has admitted it failed to notify the FBI about the conviction, which would have barred Kelley from purchasing firearms. 

Brennaman (pictured) married Kelley in April 2011, and divorced him the following year after a brief and turbulent marriage. Kelley pleaded guilty to assaulting her and her young son

Brennaman (pictured) married Kelley in April 2011, and divorced him the following year after a brief and turbulent marriage. Kelley pleaded guilty to assaulting her and her young son

Brennaman (pictured) married Kelley in April 2011, and divorced him the following year after a brief and turbulent marriage. Kelley pleaded guilty to assaulting her and her young son

Meanwhile, parishioners who survived the slaughter at First Baptist Church of Sutherland said Friday that a week before the massacre, Kelley acted bizarrely.

They said Kelley showed up at a church festival dressed in black and acted so strangely that people kept a close eye on him.

Kelley ‘was completely distant and way out in thought’, recalled Judy Green. She and her husband said Kelley often exhibited troubling behavior.

At the fall festival held on Halloween night at the First Baptist Church, Kelley ‘didn’t even blink – he just stared’, she said.

Rod Green, a former law enforcement officer in Montana, said when he saw Kelley arrive in all black, he examined him closely to make sure he was not carrying a gun. 

The Greens both have licenses to carry handguns, and they are friends with Kelley’s in-laws.

Rod Green, left, and his wife Judy, say that Kelley came to a church festival dressed in all black a week before the massacre, and acted strangely enough to raise concerns

Rod Green, left, and his wife Judy, say that Kelley came to a church festival dressed in all black a week before the massacre, and acted strangely enough to raise concerns

Rod Green, left, and his wife Judy, say that Kelley came to a church festival dressed in all black a week before the massacre, and acted strangely enough to raise concerns

If Kelley had been carrying a weapon, Rod Green said, he would have escorted him away because of all the children there. Judy Green said she positioned herself to keep an eye on Kelley at all times.

‘There was something wrong with the picture,’ she said. ‘I was thinking forward, and that was what was scaring me.’

At a Christmas dinner one year, Kelley had ‘bragged about being armed,’ Rod Green said.

Investigators have said Sunday’s shooting appeared to stem from a domestic dispute involving Kelley and the mother of his second wife, and that he had sent threatening messages to her.

Visitors pay respects on Friday at a memorial where 26 crosses were placed to honor the 26 victims killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs

Visitors pay respects on Friday at a memorial where 26 crosses were placed to honor the 26 victims killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs

Visitors pay respects on Friday at a memorial where 26 crosses were placed to honor the 26 victims killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs

The mother-in-law sometimes attended services at the church but was not present on Sunday. 

Kelley died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound after armed civilians chased him from the scene of the massacre.

Eleven people remained hospitalized Friday with wounds from the shooting. 

Before the church is demolished, it will serve as a temporary memorial, said Rod Green, who also serves as the grounds steward for the church.

Services will never take place there again. Sunday’s services will be held at a nearby baseball field.

 

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