Nine gunshot wounds – but was it self-defence?

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It was 2002, and America was gripped as Tracey Richter told her story on telly.

She explained how she’d shot and killed one of two intruders who’d broken into the home she shared with her three children. ‘I did what I had to do to protect my family,’ she said, as hubby Michael Roberts clutched her hand.

Tracey explained Michael had been on a business trip when two men broke in. One had tried to strangle her with a pair of tights and she’d passed out. When she regained consciousness, Tracey managed to get to the safe where her guns were kept.

By then, one of the men had escaped, but the other was still at the scene…

Shockingly, it was her neighbour, Dustin Wehde, 20.

Tracey's neighbour Dustin Wehde.

Tracey’s neighbour Dustin Wehde.

Tracey opened fire with two guns. Emergency services found Dustin in a pool of blood on Tracey’s bedroom floor. Tracey had shot him nine times.

But Dustin was a quiet man, kept himself to himself. Was there more to it? Had Dustin been trying to protect Tracey from the other intruder?

A key piece of evidence was discovered in Dustin’s car. A pink spiral notebook…

In Dustin’s handwriting, it suggested he’d been hired as a hitman by John Pitman – Tracey’s first husband.

The pink notebook is shown in court. (Photo: PA Photos)

The pink notebook is shown in court. (Photo: PA Photos)

While it was Dustin’s handwriting, investigators never believed it was credible. Dustin, a special education student, didn’t like to write. Plus, he’d never even met John.

In the meantime, Tracey was hailed a hero.

But one man wasn’t impressed. Her ex, John Pitman.

The couple had met at uni, had a son, seemed to have it all. But John suspected Tracey was seeing other men. After a series of heated rows, Tracey waved a gun in John’s face and threatened to kill him. The pair separated.

Then Tracey married Michael Roberts following a whirlwind Internet romance. They had two children. For a while, things were great.

Michael supported Tracey through a bitter custody battle with John, who was seeking sole custody of the child they had together.

Then, on 13 December 2001, came the horrifying shooting.

And now Tracey was on telly talking about it. Soon, Michael had doubts too. He believed Tracey was trying to kill him.

Now, as Tracey faced a second divorce, she began trying to implicate Michael in Dustin’s murder.

She said he may have been the second intruder, that both her ex husbands wanted her dead so they’d get custody of the kids.

In July 2011, almost 10 years after the shooting, Tracey Richter was charged with first-degree murder.

Dustin's Mum breaks down in court. (Photo: PA Photos)

Dustin Wehde’s mother breaks down in court. (Photo: PA Photos)

Prosecutors argued Tracey had convinced Dustin to write the note.

That cold-blooded Tracey killed Dustin in a twisted plot to frame her first hubby, John, so she’d get full custody of their child.

But which version of events would the jury believe?

The verdict

PA Photos

In November 2011, Tracey Richter, 45, was convicted of first-degree murder. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Richter maintained her innocence, but an appeal was overturned.

 

By Rachel Tompkins

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. The verdict
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