CRESTVIEW — As Jan. 6, 2006, the day that Melissa Howard was due to take custody of her son, Taylor, from her ex-husband, approached, the people close to her noticed her becoming increasingly anxious.

Howard, was violently killed in her Crestview home on the very evening the custody order took effect, and testimony about her state of mind in the days leading up to her death has resonated in the first days of the trial of David Russell Holbrook Jr., who is accused of killing her.

Janis Burke, the attorney who represented Howard in the custody battle for then 11-year-old Taylor, testified that on the evening of Jan. 4 she returned a call to her client from the day before.

“She was crying when she answered the phone. I got the impression she was not going to be able to talk. She was that upset,” Burke told the court. “I did not expect her, when she answered the phone, to be upset.”

What Howard had to say was emotionally charged enough to be considered what is known in court lingo as an “excited utterance,” said prosecuting attorney Clifton Drake, who argued over an objection to allow Burke to continue what would otherwise be considered hearsay evidence.

Circuit Judge Michael Flowers decided after a lengthy discussion on the issue to adjourn for the day and will decide today whether Burke’s testimony can continue. With the jury out of the room, though, those in the courtroom heard what she will say if allowed.

Burke told the court that Howard told her in that phone call that “I knew this was going to happen. I knew (ex-husband) Brian was going to send one of his men over to scare me.”

Howard told Burke that “Russell,” as David Holbrook was known, had visited her home with the message “you need to let that boy be with his father” and “you need to let this go.” Brian Howard had previously failed to obey a court order to give up custody of Tayler.

“The more she talked about it, the more upset she became,” Burke told the court. “He was in her house.”

Taylor Howard himself also testified for the prosecution Wednesday. Now in his mid-20s, he recalled being highly impressed with the big new truck his dad’s friend Russell drove and also remembered seeing the truck leaving Brian Howard’s neighborhood as his mother was dropping him off at his father’s home.

Taylor Howard said the day he saw Holbrook’s truck was the same day Melissa received the visit from Holbrook, and two days before she died.

Also among those who testified Wednesday was Dr. Cameron Snyder, who worked as an associate medical examiner in Okaloosa County in 2006. He described for jurors how Melissa Howard had died from two deep stab wounds to her neck, one of which severed her jugular vein.

The trial, which is expected to go through the week, will resume at 9 a.m. today.