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Spring Hill man convicted on lesser charge of manslaughter in shooting of wife

BROOKSVILLE — Raymond Carter showed up to Courtroom E on Thursday with a photo of his smiling mother under his arm.

Carter sat through two days of testimony this week as a prosecutor tried to convince a jury that his stepfather, Alan Osterhoudt Jr., murdered Maria Osterhoudt during an argument last year at their Spring Hill home. Carter watched along with jurors as images were shown of his mother's body, clad in pajamas and black slippers, lying on the white tile floor of the master bathroom. He listened three times to the 911 call Alan Osterhoudt made that night, the key piece of evidence in the state's case.

On Thursday morning, as fluorescent light glinted off the photo's silver frame, Carter heard the court clerk say "guilty." After about 2½ hours of deliberations, the six-woman panel convicted Osterhoudt of manslaughter with a firearm.

The 63-year-old retired air-conditioning repairman had been charged with second-degree murder and faced a maximum sentence of life in prison. The conviction on the lesser charge means Hernando Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti could put him behind bars for as many as 30 years. Sentencing is set for Oct. 29.

Osterhoudt, who has been out on bail since his arrest, showed no emotion as the clerk read the verdict and bailiffs led him away.

"It's not what we came here for today, but at the same time he didn't get to go home today," Carter said.

Osterhoudt broke a 19-month silence when he decided to testify Wednesday.

He said he was dozing in his bedroom the night of Feb. 25, 2012, when he awoke to the couple's dog barking, then heard a noise in the master bathroom. He grabbed his .38-caliber Taurus revolver from the nightstand, turned a corner to the bathroom and pulled the trigger when he was startled by "a form."

Instead of an intruder, he said, he found Maria Osterhoudt on the floor, a gunshot wound to the back of her head. The 65-year-old St. Petersburg College professor died instantly.

"I did not intentionally shoot my wife," he said.

Osterhoudt's sometimes tearful account seemed to be in sharp contrast with his demeanor on the 911 recording. In a calm, flat voice, he told the operator that he had just shot his wife.

The operator asked why.

"We had an argument, and … ," Osterhoudt replied. The operator interrupted him to ask where he put the gun.

"That monotone is about as cold as you'll ever hear," Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto said during closing arguments.

Why, Catto asked, was Osterhoudt so calm? Why did he tell the operator he wouldn't resist when deputies arrived? Why did he twice say he'd done "the most heinous thing I've done in my life."

Catto said a comment Osterhoudt made to a deputy was also a key piece of evidence: "My life is over."

"That lets you into his head in the heat of the moment as well as any kind of physical evidence we could have," Catto said.

Osterhoudt admitted that the couple had discussed divorce. He said they argued earlier that night but he couldn't remember why.

Defense attorney Kenneth Foote said investigators failed to produce enough evidence to prove Osterhoudt intentionally pulled the trigger.

Osterhoudt said the couple slept in separate bedrooms, so it would have been unusual for her to be in the master bathroom at that time of night. Foote noted that in crime scene photos, a door leading from the bathroom to the pool area was open, and a set of keys was found on the floor by Maria Osterhoudt's leg. Maybe she let herself in through the bathroom's other door and made the noise her husband heard, Foote said.

He said Osterhoudt could have remained silent but told them what happened.

"The state doesn't want you to believe those words," Foote said. "They only want you to believe the 911 tape and the assumptions that go along with it."

Raymond Carter called his stepfather's story "bulls---." Osterhoudt has always had a temper, Carter said, and was probably jealous of the attention being showered upon his wife as she neared retirement.

"Jealousy turned to rage," Carter said. "If it was an accident, he would have said that 19 months ago."

Spring Hill man convicted on lesser charge of manslaughter in shooting of wife 09/26/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 26, 2013 11:11pm]
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