OLATHE, Kansas —The man who allegedly dismembered his wife's body and put her in two coolers said Tuesday in court he did it because it was something he "had to do" to protect his family.
Justin Rey testified in Johnson County, Kansas District Court Tuesday morning at his preliminary hearing, which is unusual.
Judge Brenda Cameron set a jury trial for 9 a.m. on Nov. 5 and is slated to take two days.
Rey told prosecuting attorney Sarah Hill, "I don't have to call for help," when she asked why he didn't contact 911 after his wife, Jessica Monteiro Rey, asked for help at least three times after giving birth in a Kansas City, Missouri hotel room in October 2017.
Rey said several times he didn't want to call authorities because they'd take the kids away.
The prosecution called 10 witnesses to the stand: the first responders who came into contact with Rey at a Lenexa, Kansas U-Haul storage facility, the manager of the facility, a detective, a crime scene investigator, the Johnson County coroner, a foster parent, and a man who gave Rey and his children a ride the night he was arrested.
In Johnson County, Rey is charged with two counts of aggravated endangerment of a child and two counts of child misconduct. He is charged with abandoning a corpse and child endangerment in Jackson County, Missouri.
Monteiro Rey's decomposing remains were found in two coolers at the storage facility. Rey had their newborn daughter and 2-year-old daughter in tow, along with the coolers, saying he had to catch a train back to Flagstaff, Arizona. He said he wanted to perform a ceremony with her remains there.
"So, to properly take care of your deceased wife's body is to cut it up and throw the pieces in the toilet, that's okay, right?" Hill asked.
Rey denied it, although that's what he'd told a detective before.
Rey had admitted they stayed a couple nights in the storage unit, but in court said they'd only stayed there for 11 hours total.
Shannon Murphy, a detective with Lenexa police, interviewed Rey after his arrest. Murphy said Rey told her his wife had "suicided," and that she had no will to live. Rey had initially told investigators his wife was in Arizona.
According to Murphy, Rey said his wife had given birth in the bathtub of their WoodSpring Suites hotel room. Rey said he was texting a friend in Christian Science, asking for tips and prayers to restore her life.
It was during the time he was texting in the next room that Monteiro Rey called for help after giving birth in the bathtub, Murphy said.
Murphy said Rey told her he moved Monteiro Rey's dead body to the bed, where he propped her up to take pictures with the children, then moved her back to the bathroom where he "skinned her like a fish" for eight hours. The kids were in the next room.
"It wasn't fun for me to have to do this," Rey testified.
Charles Glenn, the Johnson County Coroner, performed an autopsy on Monteiro Rey's body. He said because of her body's state he couldn't determine how she died, but that her uterus was consistent with recent childbirth.
Glenn said he found her head and torso in one cooler, which was filled to the brim with tissue and organs. He said limbs had been severed and were somewhat intact. He noticed many cuts to the tissue, but couldn't say if the wounds happened before or after she died.
Brianna Stoddard, the crime scene investigator, found the bags and coolers with Monteiro Rey's remains among other personal belongings at the storage facility.
In a messenger bag, Stoddard said she found a rain jacket stained with blood sitting on top of baby formula and food items.
One of the toddler's toothbrushes was inside the same bag containing her mother's remains.
When Hill pressed Rey to answer if this conduct was appropriate, Rey insisted what he did was not wrong or illegal and that his kids were well taken care of.
"Your personal perceptions and personal beliefs may be different than mine, but that doesn't make me a killer or a criminal or a bad father," Rey told Hill.
One of the witnesses said this case "hit home."
The witness is the EMT who checked out the toddler at the scene. He and his wife are now fostering the two children, who they say are healthy and doing much better now.
"Felt like we had to do something," he said as he described the toddler that night. The EMT said she was in a state of shock, had dark circles under her eyes and had thinner hair than a normal 2-year-old. He said she was apprehensive to touch, but after he soothed her in the ambulance she eventually went to sleep.
The newborn had a serious eye infection and had to be treated in the hospital.
Choking up, the EMT said he felt he needed to take a fatherly role like he'd do with his own kids.
Rey pleaded not guilty.