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Wife Of Olympic Athlete Convicted Of Murder, Despite Self-Defense Claims
The wife of a former Olympic shot-putter was found guilty of murder, despite her claims that she shot her husband in self-defense.
Jane Laut, 58, was convicted of first-degree murder on Wednesday and is looking at a sentence of 50 years to life in prison, according to the Ventura County Star.
Laut fatally shot her husband, Dave Laut, 52, on August 27, 2009 at the couple's home in Oxnard. Dave Laut, once a shot putter who competed in the Olympics, took home a bronze medal in the 1984 summer games. At the time of his death, he worked as Hueneme High School's athletic director.
Laut claimed that she shot her husband after years of abuse. The couple had been married for 29 years, over the course of which Laut claimed Dave had raped, beaten and emotionally abused her. On the night of the murder, she said it was her husband—who she said was drunk—who first brandished the gun, threatening to kill her, the couple's 10-year-old son Michael, and their two dogs. Laut said that after her husband bashed her head against a wall, she escaped to the back patio. She said she remembers them fighting for the gun, and that she heard the first shot ring out as they both fell to the ground. Though she said she recalled her husband pointing the gun at her, she claims not to remember gaining control of the weapon and shooting him. Dave Laut was shot six times, including once in the back of the head. He was later found to have a BAC of .05%, which is under the legal limit of .08%, at the time of his death.
Jane Laut first tried to hide the gun and lied to officers, claiming that an intruder had shot her husband, according to the L.A. Times.
Laut's lawyer, Ron Bamieh, stated that bruises found on Laut's body corroborated her story of abuse, while experts called by Bamieh testified that Laut suffered from battered person syndrome. Bamieh said that Laut can live with her actions because "she knows if she didn't do what she did, her son would be dead."
Dave Laut's sister-in-law, Rebecca Laut, said that Jane Laut's allegations against her husband were untrue, and that he was not abusive.
"I would like to apologize to all the real victims of abuse because now it just makes it difficult for them to walk away from abuse when they have to. Jane was a desperate woman...who was willing to say anything to try to get off. She lied so easily to everybody, and now she's tainted what other women are really going through," she told the Ventura County Star.
Dave Laut's coworkers had testified on his behalf, saying that they never saw him angry and that he was a good friend, spoke supportively about his family, and was humble about his past.
The couple's son, Michael Laubacher, is now 17 years old. He was 10 at the time of his father's death, and testified in court that Dave Laut had a short fuse and was often angry or yelling.
He also testified that he once tried to climb out of a classroom window at Santa Clara Elementary School because he knew his father was angry and was worried he would "take it out on [my mother], or anyone else, for that matter." Laubacher's teacher at the time, Analiese Marie White, told the courtroom that on that day, Laubacher had been frantic and was screaming about needing to help his mother. She grabbed him as he was trying to climb a fence to flee the school and run home.
In his testimony, he would only refer to his father by his full name and told the court that he had decided to change his last name to his mother's maiden name in middle school. He stated that he had blocked out many negative memories of his childhood, and that he only saw his father as "as the man who raised me or the man I lived with. I don't know if I can consider him as a father, looking back."
Jane Laut was previously given the option to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter, which would have resulted in a six year-sentence, but she refused.