Ken Rickert, general counsel for U.S. Enterprises, reads a 2005 promissory note for a loan from Diane McIver to Tex McIver for $750,000, plus interest, Tuesday in the murder trial at Fulton County Courthouse. (Pool photo: Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Atlanta attorney Claud “Tex” McIver was financially strapped and was outspending his monthly income when he fatally shot his wife, a former co-worker of her’s testified Tuesday.

McIver was so consumed with the state of his finances that he told Ken Rickert, general counsel U.S. Enterprises where Diane McIver was president, that his law firm “was cutting him back.” McIver said he was only bringing in $10,000 to $12,000 a month, but his 75-acre ranch was costing him $20,000 to $25,000 a month to maintain, Rickert testified Tuesday.

McIver’s comments were made the day after Diane McIver died, Rickert said.

McIver, a former Fisher & Phillips partner, said he intended to “restructure things” by the end of that year, Rickert testified. The lawyer also asked if he could qualify for his dead wife’s Social Security benefits, Rickert recalled.

Rickert said he was taken aback because, “I expected at that point in time he would tell me how sorry he was, and it was a terrible, tragic accident, and that he loved Diane. But I never heard that.”

McIver has always claimed the shooting that killed his wife on Sept. 25, 2016, was accidental. Tex McIver was sitting directly behind Diane as a friend drove them home from a visit to the couple’s ranch. McIver claims he asked for a gun he kept in the Ford Expedition’s console because he was wary of the section of downtown Atlanta the vehicle was passing through.

McIver and his spokesmen have offered several explanations as to how the gun fired, including that he fall asleep with the gun in his hand and that he suffers from a sleep disorder that may have precipitated the shooting.

But Fulton County prosecutors contended the shooting was driven by McIver’s increasingly dire financial situation, including a loan from his wife which he had collateralized with his interest in the ranch.

On Tuesday, Rickert testified that McIver borrowed $750,000 from his wife eight months before the couple married in November 2005 and signed a promissory note that Rickert had drawn up. Rickert said he did not know whether McIver repaid that loan.

Six years later, on Dec. 23, 2011, McIver borrowed $350,000 from a company owned by his wife, securing it with a security deed for his interest in the ranch. McIver only paid interest on that loan, Rickert said, and McIver’s wife renewed it on Dec. 22, 2014. Diane even lowered the interest rate from 5 to 4.5 percent, Rickert said. That loan was scheduled to be paid in full by the end of 2017.

Whenever Diane McIver loaned money, “She expected to be repaid,” Rickert said. Her assistant, Terry Brown, “was responsible for making sure everyone paid on time … even if they were friends,” he added. “ She even sent out monthly notices.

Rickert also backed up testimony Monday from Atlanta attorney Harold Hudson, who specializes in estate planning, saying Diane McIver was seeking to revise the terms of her 2006 will, which her husband filed in Fulton County Probate Court after she died.

Rickert said that, in 2011, Tex McIver had proposed the ranch would be leased to a limited liability company he owned as a tax planning vehicle. “I told Diane it was not to her benefit to do that,” he said.

Rickert also said he prepared a codicil amending Diane McIver’s will in August 2007 after the birth of the McIvers’ godson, Austin Schwall. Rickert said Diane McIver indicated she wanted to remove one of her beneficiaries and to set up a trust for Austin. But, he said, “It was never executed to my knowledge.”

Rickert also said that Tex McIver apparently had no copy of his wife’s will and called him three days after his wife died looking for a will at U.S. Enterprises. Rickert said he, other executives and company owner Billy Corey located Diane McIver’s 2006 will with the unexecuted codicil in an office filing cabinet. He said company executives eventually delivered the original will to Tex McIver.

Rickert said there was “some question” as to whether Diane McIver had a more recent will that she might have kept in a safe in a closet of the condominium she shared with her husband. He said, at one point when McIver called looking for a key to the safe, he asked to be present when it was open. While Rickert wasn’t present, Terry Brown was.

Rickert said that at the time Diane McIver died, she and her husband shared ownership of the ranch as joint tenants with right of survivorship. If one died, the ownership of the property would immediately transfer to the surviving spouse, regardless of the terms of a will.

Rickert also testified that, when Diane McIver died, she was insured by a $1 million policy but had not named a beneficiary. But he said U.S. Enterprises made a demand on her estate for repayment of a $975,000 loan the company made to DRS Investments, a company Diane McIver partly owned. Rickert said the insurance policy payout was used to pay the loan in full.

At the end of 2014, when Tex McIver sought to renew a note on a $350,000 loan from his wife, Diane McIver upped the ante.

When she made the original loan in December 2011, Tex McIver signed a security deed filed in Putnam County where the ranch was located, a real estate attorney Carlton Morris called by Fulton County prosecutors as an expert witness testified Tuesday.

But in December 2014, when Tex McIver renewed the loan, his wife allowed him to do so only on 11 acres of the 85-acre ranch. The entire ranch that had secured the original note remained subject to foreclosure at any time by Clay Management, Diane McIver’s company that made the original loan, Morris said.

In renewing the loan, Diane McIver also included a new 90-day demand clause that would allow her to collect the entire principal—or foreclose on the property—before the loan’s final due date on Dec. 21. 2017, Morris said.

That promissory note, which also was secured by a security deed filed in Putnam County where the ranch is located, took precedence over a refinance of the mortgage on that 11 acres, Morris said.

If Clay Management foreclosed, the McIvers’ joint tenancy would be severed, Morris said. “Clay Management would own one-half interest [in the farm], and Diane Smith McIver would own one-half interest.”

Because Diane McIver was the sole owner of Clay Management, he said, she could then deed Clay Management’s interest in the ranch to herself, giving her sole possession.

That would mean that the joint tenancy she shared with her husband would have been severed and she could bequeath the property to anyone she wanted, he said.

But, he added, in response to questions from McIver’s defense, he never saw or reviewed any documents indicating that Diane McIver ever made a move to foreclose on her husband’s share of the ranch.

The new security deed was filed in February 2015, Morris said. That same month, Tex McIver contacted his bank seeking a $350,000 loan that would have repaid his wife. He didn’t get it, Morris testified.

The result—he was at risk of losing the entire ranch to his wife if she chose to give him notice that she was calling in the loan and he couldn’t repay it in 90 days.