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GASTONCOUNTY, N.C. -- A man on trial for murder took the stand in his defense on Friday.

Danny Hembree is charged with the killings of three women dating back to 1992.

Hembree is on trial first for the 2009 killing of 17-year-old Heather Catterton, whose body was found near Clover, South Carolina.

Prosecutors have used Hembree's confession to investigators as a foundation for their case. But Hembree took the stand and testified that he did not kill Catterton.

He talked about waking up, going over the refrigerator to get a beer, walking over to Catterton to try and wake her up. He said she would not wake up, that she was cold to the touch. He finished drinking his beer and tried to decide what to do.

I decided to hide her body and not tell anybody that she died in my bed, Hembree testified.

He told jurors he didn t want to call police because he had priors.

Hembree said he only admitted to the murder as a diversion because he was under unrelated armed robbery charges at the time, and because of the murder charges, he didn t get as much time on the armed robbery.

Hembree said he knew once the murder charges went to trial, people would realize there was no evidence against him.

He is charged with killing 30-year-old Randi Dean Saldana, whose burned remains were found near Blacksburg, South Carolina.

Hembree said he killed Saldona at his mother s Gaston County home after a night of rough sex.

I had my right hand up around her throat.I just killed her. I wasn t trying to kill her, he told the jury.

In this afternoon's testimony,said he hid Saldana sbody in a closet before dumping it on the side of the road and setting her body on fire.He told jurors he purposely crossed state lines to dump the bodies to confuse the authorities and work the system.

After telling the jury his earlier confessions were all lies, he said, The only thing I can say is it s my best interest to get gut level honest and show everything and let you all be the judge of what s going on.

Investigators say Hembree also killed Deborah Ratchford in 1992.

The other two cases will be tried separately.

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