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Charged with murder, Luch says wife's shooting death was partly her own fault

Kyle Hopkins

Robert Luch sat in his recliner, fuming, he said.

It was Sept. 28, 2010, and earlier that day he had learned his family car was impounded in another state. He'd sworn at his daughter and been in a fistfight with his son. He had circled a parking lot at Kincaid Park, honking his horn in search of his wife, who he was convinced was cheating on him.

"I'm infuriated, because of all the day's events and now I think my wife is off on another tryst," Luch told jurors Monday in his ongoing murder trial in Anchorage.

No one is debating whether Luch held the gun that fired two shots that night, killing Jocelyn Luch, his wife of 21 years. He turned himself in to police soon after the shooting. Whether the jury believes he planned her death, however, could decide whether the 64-year-old spends the rest of his life in prison.

Prosecutors made their case last week. Taking the stand in his own defense, Robert talked about a once-happy marriage unraveling in the spring and summer of 2010 and a maddening day that ended in what he calls the "melee" that killed his 40-year-old wife.

Luch told jurors that as he sat in the recliner, he did not intend to hurt anyone. When he confronted Jocelyn about his suspicions and walked downstairs to retrieve his new revolver, he never intended to use the gun for anything more than a prop, he said. By telling her he would shoot her lover, it might scare the man away, he told the jury of 10 women and four men.

Challenged by prosecutors, Luch said Jocelyn Luch's death was partly her own fault because she grabbed at his wrist. "It takes two to melee," he said.

Here's his side of the story.

The Luch family owns a home in Arizona and spent the winter there in late 2009. In March 2010, Jocelyn returned to Anchorage to work at the Coast International Inn.

Some time after her return, Robert testified, Jocelyn stopped answering many of his phone calls from Arizona. She changed the message on her voicemail. It had been Robert's voice. Now it was Jocelyn's, he testified.

"I thought it was odd, but I couldn't think of a reason why she'd want to do that," he told the jury.

Robert followed Jocelyn back to Alaska in late May. She had started dressing differently, he noticed. "Like a high school kid."

Robert grew more and more suspicious. He was angry that Jocelyn began taking much longer runs, leaving the house for 90 minutes instead of 20. He could hear her talking on the cellphone when she took long baths, music blaring.

"Robert," defense attorney Andrew Lambert asked. "Were you and your wife able to have intercourse?"

She wanted to, Robert said. But diabetes had left him impotent for the last 12 years.

"It embarrassed me and I just didn't feel manly or macho. I felt inadequate, like I couldn't do what I was supposed to do to hold up my end of the marriage."

The Luches and their children are well known in Anchorage running circles, and one night that June, the family went to bed early to prepare for the annual Alaska Run for Women. Robert got up to use the bathroom, expecting everyone to be asleep, he said. He noticed a light on the phone. Someone was in the middle of a call.

Robert eavesdropped on the conversation for about five minutes, he said, his anger building. Jocelyn was talking to a man she'd been seeing, Bryan Fuqua.

Fuqua also testified Monday. For at least part of the relationship, he did not know Jocelyn was married, he said.

He recalled Robert Luch interrupting his call with Jocelyn.

"I caught you," Luch told him.

Questioned by attorney Lambert, Luch recalled the conversation.

Lambert encouraged Luch to use the same tone of voice in court that he used on the phone.

"I said to this guy, "Are you f---ing my wife!?' " Luch said.

"'No, I wasn't, but I'm going to now," Fuqua replied, according to Luch's testimony.

"I said, 'I'm going to buy a gun and shoot you!' "

The couple rarely spoke for the next few weeks, Robert said. Jocelyn didn't come home three or four nights a week, he said.

Robert talked to a divorce lawyer, he said, but later decided not to follow through. "I was in love with her. I knew the marriage was repairable, because I knew what the problem was," he said.

Then things seemed to improve. The couple started going to dinner and joking together, Robert said.

On Sept. 17, Robert bought a .38-caliber revolver at Sportsman's Warehouse.

"Did you buy that gun with the intention of murdering your wife?" Lambert asked. The handgun sat in front of Luch, in the courtroom, in a plastic evidence bag.

"No, definitely not," Luch said. "I bought that gun because our cabin was being broken into on a regular basis and my kids were expressing fear of going out there."

Luch said he applied for and received an Alaska driver's license -- replacing his Arizona license -- solely to buy the handgun. He didn't tell Jocelyn, who would have been angry he wasted $500, he said.

 

DAY OF THE KILLING

The day Jocelyn was shot started badly.

Robert said his son told him about an email from one of his daughters in Arizona saying the girl had loaned a family car to someone who didn't have a license. Police stopped the vehicle for a burned-out tail light and impounded it, Luch said.

"I was livid," he said.

Luch called his daughter, he said, yelling and swearing at her. His son told him to stop.

"Get out of here," Luch replied, according to his testimony. "I'm parenting, this is a father-daughter thing, this is not your business."

The two began to bump chests and "wound up getting in a fistfight," Luch said. He drove to Jocelyn's workplace, planning to tell her about the impounded car and the fight with his son, he said.

He waited for hours, but Jocelyn never came out, he said. He learned she had left work with someone else, he said.

Luch said he asked his youngest daughter to go with her mother to the Tuesday night races at Kincaid Park, but the girl decided not to at the last minute. Luch raced to the park with his daughter, he said. They watched the runners finish, but never saw Jocelyn. After a frustrating search, he went home and waited, he said.

"As soon as they come through the door, I start shooting barbs at my wife," Luch said. He was telling the family that "she didn't run the race. She was out in the bushes with this guy somewhere."

Jocelyn went to her bedroom and started putting on her nightgown, he said.

Luch followed. He had not yet grabbed the gun, he said.

"I confronted her for the first time all summer. I went in there and said, 'Is this the real reason you're stalling about selling the house and going to Arizona? So where the hell were you then!' " he said, yelling in the courtroom as he re-enacted the fight.

Luch retrieved the handgun from an annex next to the garage. He told the jury he did not know if there were bullets in it, though three days earlier, at the family cabin, it had been loaded.

Jocelyn was in the bathroom with the door closed but unlocked, he said. Luch opened the door, the revolver in his pocket, he said.

Luch said that Jocelyn routinely would brandish a knife at him or the couple's children when she was angry and making a point. He was doing the same thing with the gun, he said. "She'll relate to this, because she always does it herself."

The couple argued in the bathroom.

"You said you weren't going to do this anymore," Luch said he told his wife. You said we were off to a fresh start. You're a married woman. Married women can't have boyfriends."

"It's none of your business!" she replied, according to Luch.

"I said, 'It's none of my business?' " he said, voice rising from the witness stand. " 'It is my business, I'm your husband.' I said, 'I've got a message for this guy.' "

Luch said he took the gun out of his pocket and held it in the air, finger on the trigger. He said he did not point the gun at Jocelyn.

" 'No!' " Jocelyn screamed, grabbing Robert's wrist, Robert testified.

"She's trying to get the gun out of my hand. ... I'm pulling back," he said.

Gesturing as if he were holding the revolver in his right hand, Luch said he swung his arm in a wide arc in an attempt to break Jocelyn's grip. He was not trying to point the gun at her and not trying to shoot her, he said.

"I fell backwards. I was on the balls of my heels. I went backwards," Luch said.

The gun fired. Luch closed his eyes, he said. Luch said he didn't realize he was pulling the trigger.

The gun fired a second time. "My eyes opened," Luch said.

Jocelyn was falling. Luch spun 180 degrees and pushed the door open.

"Why didn't you stop and help your wife," Lambert asked.

"My brain was shut down. I wasn't thinking at all," Luch said.

His son and daughter were approaching.

He walked a few feet to the stairs, returning the gun to an annex next to the garage. On his way, he grabbed a brown lunch sack full of pills -- Valium, codeine, aspirin -- from the counter.

Luch tried and failed to swallow the pills, he said. At first his throat was too dry, he testified. He pulled an apple juice from a storage drawer and drank it to ingest the pills.

"Did you try to commit suicide," Lambert asked?

"I'm not sure. Maybe I did. Maybe I tried to commit suicide. ... I feel like I just didn't want to be there. I just couldn't cope with it. I couldn't handle the moment," he said.

Luch heard sirens. This woke him from his "daze," he said.

Jocelyn was still alive upstairs in the bathroom, where police found her with gunshot wounds to the arm, shoulder and torso, according to news reports at the time. The fatal wound was a gunshot to the abdomen, Deputy District Attorney Clint Campion had said earlier in the trial. Jocelyn died two days later at Providence Alaska Medical Center, her death notice said.

Luch walked up to police and turned himself in before passing out, he said. "I woke up three days later in the hospital."

 

 

 

 

  Twitter updates: twitter.com/adn_kylehopkins. Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334 or email him at khopkins@adn.com.

 

 


By KYLE HOPKINS
khopkins@adn.com
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