The Texas church gunman’s first wife is breaking her silence about how the man she once knew as warm and friendly descended into violence.
Speaking exclusively to Inside Edition, Tessa Brennaman recalled how Devin Kelley bragged about killing a dog, exchanged explicit text messages with other women and even sexually assaulted her.
He was so abusive, she said, that she’s still traumatized years later.
“I was terrified, really terrified,” Brennaman, 25, 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.”
It was a far cry from the person she met when they were teenagers. They got to know each other while working at a Freddy’s burger chain near San Antonio.
“He was really nice; he was funny,” she recalled. “He would pay for my food if we would go somewhere. He would go drive to the mall together and he would sing in the car and make fun of the songs.”
After graduating from high school, Kelley joined the Air Force and, based on an aptitude test, he was selected to become an intelligence specialist dedicated to the interpretation of enemy tactics.
But he was cut from the elite program due to poor grades and transferred to an Air Force base in New Mexico, where he handled freight.
A week before moving there, in April 2011, he married Brennaman, who had a 9-month-old son from another relationship.
But Kelley suffered from acute depression and became violent, she said.
“If we wanted to go do something and had an appointment at 5 o’clock and I wasn’t ready to leave by a certain time, he would beat me,” she said.
Brennaman said he even sexually assaulted her. Those times are “very hard to talk about,” she said.
“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.
Kelley was also very secretive.
“I was never even allowed to touch his phone,” Brennaman recalled. “I found out he had a fake email and all these women were sending pictures of breasts and he was sending nasty correspondence back to them.”
She said he even bragged about killing his dog as a child.
“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. “I was like, who thinks like that?”
Then came a violent argument that shattered the marriage. They were driving along a desolate highway when she warned Kelley about driving too fast, she said.
He then put a gun to her head and threatened to kill her.
“He had a gun in his holster right here and he took it out and he put it to my [temple]. He told me, ‘Do you want to die? Do you want to die?’” she said.
But it got darker.
Three months earlier, Brennaman had rushed her son to a local hospital because he was vomiting and doctors discovered he had a skull fracture. She thought it was due to an accident.
But in the car on the highway, Kelley admitted that he was responsible. He told her he’d physically abused her baby boy.
“What was that like to find out?” Fabian asked her.
“I was so angry,” Brennaman said through tears.
She turned him into the police.
In November 2012, he pleaded guilty in a military court to striking, choking and kicking his wife. He also admitted to fracturing his stepson’s skull.
He was sentenced to one year in a military prison.
After serving his sentence, he was discharged from the Air Force.
Brennaman filed for divorce and Kelley went on to marry his second wife, Danielle Shields, in 2014.