Antoinne Bethea (center) is escorted into the courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor Aug. 20. Bethea, 41, of New Haven, Connecticut, is accused of killing Terrance Durel Sr., 36, of New Orleans on April 16, 2017 outside a home near the corner of Highland Avenue and Ohio Street in Bangor. Credit: Gabor Degre

A man charged with murder in the death of his girlfriend’s husband took the stand Tuesday and denied pulling the trigger during a struggle over his gun on Easter Sunday last year.

Antoinne “Prince” Bethea, 41, of New Haven, Connecticut, is accused of killing Terrance Durel Sr., 36, of New Orleans on April 16, 2017, outside the Bangor home Bethea shared with Durel’s estranged wife, Danielle Lane Durel, 44, at 2 Highland Ave. He has pleaded not guilty to one count of intentional or knowing murder and claimed he acted in self-defense.

Bethea testified Tuesday that he was fighting with Durel’s friend, Stephen “Primo” Lancaster, 38, of Las Vegas when the gun fired and struck Durel, who was nearby, in the leg and stomach.

“I don’t know who pulled the trigger,” the defendant testified. “I don’t know where Durel was. He was never on the ground with me and Mr. Lancaster.”

Bethea’s testimony contradicted Lancaster’s, who testified last week that he “tackled” Bethea and Durel after the two began fighting outside the apartment Bethea shared with Durel’s estranged wife. All three men were on the ground “scuffling” when the gun discharged, Lancaster told the jury.

Bethea admitted he owned the handgun. He testified that when he moved to Maine, he “stored” the weapon under a bush outside the Dirigo Drive home belonging to Daniel Lane, his girlfriend’s father. Bethea said Tuesday that he retrieved the gun the Sunday of the shooting because he felt threatened by text messages Durel had sent to his wife that had upset her. Bethea said he put the gun in the right back pocket of his jeans.

The text messages were laced with profanities and said that Durel wanted to talk with his wife and Bethea about his son, he testified.

“I had heard things about [Durel’s] past behavior that made me concerned for my safety and Danielle’s,” Bethea said. “I’d heard he carried a weapon and had shot at a few people. I’d heard he was abusive with Danielle. He hit her and since then, she’s had trouble hearing out of one ear. In one incident, he knocked her tooth out.”

The defendant said that he had never witnessed the violence he had heard about. Bethea admitted that he had never met Durel before he came to the Highland Avenue apartment the Friday before Easter to pick up his son, Terrance “Bubby” Durel Jr., now 9.

Bethea said that he Durel was already at the apartment on Easter Sunday when he and Danielle Lane Durel arrived. He testified that Durel was verbally abusive and refused to be specific about what his concerns were.

“He put his open palm on my face, so I put my hand under his armpits to make sure he was not going to get his hands down to his pockets to get a gun,” Bethea said. “I slammed Terrance up against the hood of a car a couple of times. He was swinging at me but wasn’t able to make contact.”

That is when Lancaster struck his Bethea in the jaw, he said.

“I got my clock cleaned,” he said. “I was standing one minute, and I was on the ground the next.”

Bethea testified that Lancaster pulled on his long dreadlocks when the defendant managed to get the gun out of his back pocket. At one point, Lancaster pushed it against his ribs, Bethea said. He said the gun fired in the struggle.

The defendant said he did not realize Durel had been hit until after Danielle Lane Durel came out of the apartment and began screaming.

“I looked to my left and saw Terrance sitting on his butt gasping for air,” Bethea said. “I panicked because Terrance was shot with my gun. At the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I was going to get no fair shake.”

Bethea fled the scene. He said he went to Lane’s home again, cut off his dreadlocks and retrieved a safe that contained valuables including jewelry and paperwork for his dog breeding business. He went to Portland, then Connecticut. Bethea was arrested May 21, 2017, during a traffic stop in Euclid, Ohio.

The defense entered into evidence photos a friend took late that Easter Sunday of abrasions, scratches and bruises on Bethea’s shoulder, forearms and knuckles. The photos also showed where his newly shaved head was bruised from Lancaster allegedly pulling on his dreadlocks.

Under cross-examination, Bethea said he did not go into the apartment and stay there because he was afraid Durel would come inside where his wife and son were.

Jurors are scheduled to begin deliberating Wednesday after closing arguments and instructions from Superior Court Justice Ann Murray.

If convicted of murder, Bethea faces 25 years to life in prison.

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