An Anchorage jury has convicted Robert Luch of first-degree murder for shooting his wife to death.
Luch, 64, faces 20 to 99 years in prison. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for June.
The well-known running family's patriarch shot his 40-year-old wife, Jocelyn, in a bathroom at the family's Turnagain home Sept. 28, 2010. Prosecutors said he bought the .38-caliber Ruger revolver just 11 days earlier with plans to kill her because he was losing his control of her. On the witness stand, Luch said he was in a jealous rage that night but that the fatal shooting was an accident: The revolver fired twice while they fought, he said.
As the trial began Jan. 22, it was clear that neither side disputed that Luch pulled the trigger. Instead, lawyers argued about his intent, the difference between a conviction on murder charges or a lesser charge, like manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. Throughout the trial, Luch's children sat behind him, shoulder to shoulder.
Luch's youngest daughter, Marcelyn, took the witness stand early in the trial. The 20-year-old said she did not remember specific statements she made to police officers after the shooting.
A prosecutor played audio from the recorded conversation Marcelyn had with police in which she described prior threats her father made against her mother after discovering what he believed to be an affair.
"He said, 'I'm going to shoot her. You better hide her,' " Marcelyn said in the recording. "He said he was going to kill her and kill himself."
On the witness stand, Marcelyn said she did not remember her father making the threats and did not remember telling police about them. She said she might have been angry at her father at the time and lying.
The jury of nine women and three men began deliberating a little after 1 p.m. Wednesday and announced they had reached a verdict about 3:45 p.m. Thursday.
Jurors also convicted Luch on a count of second-degree murder, agreeing that the shooting was both intentional and extremely reckless.
As the three Luch daughters -- Delia, Letitia, Marcelyn -- entered the courtroom Thursday, a hush fell over the gallery full of onlookers. Court officers led Luch into the courtroom a short time later. His eyes scanned the room and he smiled at his daughters.
Luch showed no visible reaction when Judge Jack Smith read the jury's verdict. Luch's daughters burst into tears, two of them leaning on each other and sobbing. Their brother, Brent, was listening over the phone. The daughters left the courtroom quickly after Smith agreed to lift a no-contact order preventing Marcelyn, who was in the house the night of the shooting, from seeing her father.
"It's a sad day for everybody," said Deputy District Attorney Clint Campion, a prosecutor on the case. "Obviously, we think about the impact on the children."
When asked what part of the prosecution's case was particularly strong, Campion pointed to audio recordings made by Officer Mark Bakken, who talked to Jocelyn Luch as she lay bleeding on her bathroom floor.
"To have the words of the victim played for the jury is very unusual, and I think it's very powerful. They heard what she was going through and what she perceived had happened to her, and I doubt I'll see that again in my career," Campion said.
"We've always believed that Jocelyn, she deserved someone to stand up for her and make sure she had her day in court, and I think that's what our job was, to make sure she was treated fairly and evaluated fairly," Campion said. "She was an adult, and she had every right to make decisions in her life. It's not our job to judge her. It's our job to make sure she had a voice in the courtroom, and I think we did that."
Luch's sentencing is set for June 7.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE