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Spring Hill man on trial for murder says he shot wife by accident

BROOKSVILLE — Alan Osterhoudt Jr. stood in front of the jury and pointed a crooked finger at the wall.

A moment earlier, the 63-year-old retired air-conditioning repairman had testified that he was dozing in his bedroom on the night of Feb. 25, 2012, when he heard the dog barking and then a thump in the attached bathroom. He grabbed his Taurus .38-caliber revolver and went to investigate, he said.

"I got startled, the weapon discharged, and I realized it was my wife," Osterhoudt said as he began to cry.

With that, the defense against a second-degree murder charge suddenly became clear. Until he took the stand Wednesday morning, the only account he had given of what happened the night he shot his 65-year-old wife, Maria, in their Spring Hill home was in the 911 call he made.

Maria Osterhoudt died instantly from a single gun shot wound to the back of the head. Alan Osterhoudt faces a maximum of life in prison if convicted as charged, with a minimum mandatory of 25 years because a firearm was used.

After Osterhoudt got down from the witness stand to show the jury how he approached the bathroom, gun in hand, his defense attorney, Kenneth Foote, asked for the 911 call to be played again.

Osterhoudt's flat, emotionless voice filled the courtroom.

"I just shot my wife," he said.

"Why did you shoot your wife?" the 911 operator asked.

"We had an argument, and …"

The operator asked where the gun was. Osterhoudt said he put it in a drawer.

"I'll be outside," he said. "I'm not going to resist or anything."

Twice he said he had done "the most heinous thing" he'd done in his life. A deputy testified Tuesday that Osterhoudt did say something as he was being loaded into a patrol car: "My life is over."

After the call was played Wednesday, Foote asked why he mentioned the argument.

"Maybe I was reviewing things, I don't know," Osterhoudt said.

Osterhoudt already had testified that he had argued with his wife, a St. Petersburg College professor, earlier that night. He said he couldn't remember what prompted it.

Osterhoudt said the master bathroom featured a door to the pool area the couple rarely used. He testified that his wife slept in a separate bedroom with its own bathroom because she suffered from nervous leg ticks, and he had to get up early for work. He said she wasn't often in the master bathroom and that he didn't expect her to be there at the time of night when the shooting happened.

"During the time the gun went off, were you having an argument with your wife?" Foote asked.

"No," Osterhoudt said.

"Did you intentionally shoot your wife?"

"No, I didn't intentionally shoot my wife," Osterhoudt replied.

A day earlier, Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto sought to submit as evidence a letter, apparently written by Maria Osterhoudt, found in the house. Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti ruled it hearsay and refused.

"If you want a divorce, your wish is my command," the note said. It also mentioned alcohol: "I don't need nor look for apologies because you were drinking."

Catto on Wednesday was able to ask Osterhoudt if he had ever seen the letter. Osterhoudt said no, but he acknowledged the couple had talked in the past about divorce. He said he had two or three beers the night of the shooting but was not intoxicated.

Catto asked why Osterhoudt didn't tell the 911 operator that the shooting was an accident, and why he didn't ask for help during the call.

"I was out of it," Osterhoudt replied. "I wasn't thinking straight, Mr. Catto."

"Isn't it true that you just got mad and you shot her, and then you realized what a terrible thing it was you'd just done, and you called 911 because you realized you had done a terrible thing and you were sorry?" Catto asked.

"No, sir."

The trial is scheduled to resume today with closing arguments.

Reach Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

Spring Hill man on trial for murder says he shot wife by accident 09/25/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 10:40pm]
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