Animated and testy at times, Robert Luch remained on the witness stand for a second day Tuesday, telling a jury that he was mimicking his wife's prior violent behavior when he grabbed a revolver to confront her about her apparent infidelity.
Luch's emotions were "exploding" that night in September 2010, he said as his trial on murder charges entered its third week. He was sure his wife, Jocelyn, was sleeping with another man. She had also stalled his plans to move the well-known Anchorage running family to Arizona. Luch, now 64, said he grabbed the gun to make a point, not to shoot Jocelyn, 40.
State prosecutors say otherwise. And if the jury of 10 women and four men, including alternates, agrees with the state's theory that Luch intended to kill his wife, he'll likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Luch bought the .38-caliber Ruger just 11 days before the fatal shooting in the family's Telstar Circle home. He walked downstairs into a garage and unlocked a storage area to get the gun, prosecutors said. The two bullets he shot -- the only rounds ever fired from the gun -- both hit Jocelyn. As she lie on the bloody bathroom floor, a police officer who had rushed to the Turnagain neighborhood home asked her what happened.
"My husband shot me because I didn't want to move to Arizona," the dying woman said in a recording the officer made, which was played earlier in the trial.
But according to Luch and two of his daughters, the shooting was not the first violent encounter in the house. Jocelyn Luch often wielded a kitchen knife when she was angry with one of them, according to testimony Tuesday from Robert Luch and daughters Delia and Marcelyn. When his emotions boiled over that night, he got the gun to "posture" and threaten, not to kill, Luch said under questioning from state prosecutor Clint Campion.
"I was relating to her on her own level, something she could identify with," Luch said. "I didn't want to hurt my wife or kill her."
"But you killed your wife, didn't you?" Campion said.
"My wife died."
"You killed her, didn't you?"
"Yes, but not intentionally."
"You pulled the trigger twice."
Campion repeated earlier testimony by a gun expert: It took 11 pounds of pressure to fire pull the trigger and fire a round from the Ruger revolver. That was more than the weight of a gallon of milk, Campion said.
"It was an accident, right?" Campion asked.
"I don't know. It just went off. I'm not sure if it was passion and an accident, or rage," Luch said. "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I've been asking myself that for two-and-a-half years."
Luch said he was in a daze just after the shooting and did not try to help his wife, whom he called his "best friend" and "soulmate" during earlier testimony. He left Jocelyn in the bathroom, downed bottles of pills, walked into the street. Luch told officers responding to his son's 911 call, "I'm the one you want," according to a charging document.
Marcelyn Luch, 20, and her sister Delia, 21, backed up their father's account of their mother's knife-wielding. Both said Jocelyn Luch had a tendency to point a knife at them or hold the blade to their body if she was angry at them about something. It happened hundreds of times over the course of their lives, the sisters said.
"She'd chase us around with a knife or a broom," Marcelyn testified. "The knife would actually be touching my skin. She'd be saying, 'I'm going to kill you,' but she obviously didn't go through with it."
Delia said the knife incidents happened once a week. Her mother targeted everyone in the family, she said. Still, her parents had a great marriage before their mother began staying out at night and ignoring the family, she testified.
"You just told the jury your mom threatened you, your sisters, your brother and your dad with a knife on a weekly basis for 20 years?" Campion asked.
"Yes, she did," Delia said.
"And in your mind that's a great marriage?"
"You weren't there," Delia said.
The case goes to the jury after closing arguments Wednesday.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.