The jury were torn.
There was no doubt Art Gonzales, 43, had shot and killed his estranged wife Julie, 42, on 19 April 2013.
He’d confessed as much to emergency services operators as Julie lay dying on the floor of their home in Virginia, USA.
He also admitted being a trained FBI agent…
As Art was marched from the house by police, his wife was pronounced dead in hospital.
Yet Art claimed he’d acted in self-defence.
Julie’s parents Rey and Maryetta Serna were heartbroken, bewildered.
‘Why would he do that? They weren’t even living together,’ Rey said.
He refused to believe his daughter had attacked first.
‘That wasn’t her character, it’s not who she was,’ he said.
Julie and Art were college sweethearts. They’d married in 1995 and, later, Art joined the FBI, becoming a field agent in California.
He’d transferred to Texas before rising to Supervisor in a New Mexico field office in 2005.
The couple then moved to Stafford, Virginia, when Art was promoted to teach Ethics at the FBI Academy.
His supervisor described him as motivated, dedicated and compassionate.
‘One of the good ones,’ he said.
And he claimed that, by pulling the trigger, Art had only done what the FBI had trained him to do.
Still, the police had doubts, and, three weeks after Julie’s death, Art Gonzales was arrested for murder.
But only he and Julie knew what’d really happened that day. And Julie was dead.
Which is perhaps why, after two court trials, both juries had been deadlocked, unable to find the truth from the evidence.
During the first trial, Art was charged with murder. During the second, the charge was reduced to voluntary manslaughter. But, despite two hung juries, the prosecution wouldn’t give up.
So, in July 2015, more than two years after Julie’s death, Art faced a third trial, again for voluntary manslaughter.
This time, there’d be no jury. A judge alone would decide Gonzales’ fate.
According to Art, the day had started pleasantly.
He’d taken the day off, had lunch with a friend. Only, to his surprise, when he arrived home, Julie was in the kitchen.
But she wasn’t supposed to be, because Art had filed for divorce in June 2012, and Julie had moved out. She’d willingly given him custody of their boys, aged 12 and 10.
However, divorce after nearly 20 years of marriage was proving tough. He said Julie was dragging her heels, things were contentious.
A row had broken out.
Art claimed his wife came at him with a knife. And, on instinct, to defend himself, he reached into his holster, pulled out his FBI-issued weapon and shot Julie four times in quick succession.
Then he called the emergency services.
‘My wife just attacked me with a knife and I had to shoot her,’ he was recorded telling the operator. ‘She cut my arm.’
The emergency call was played to the court.
He was heard vomiting as a dispatcher gave him instructions on how to do CPR.
But, with each trial, each side dug deeper.
It emerged Art had been having an affair with a 24-year-old FBI agent.
It was even said he had an ‘obsession’ with her.
Was this his motive?
Then Art and some of his friends told the court Julie had a drinking problem.
Art claimed he would come home, find her passed out, drunk.
Julie’s friends rubbished this, claiming Art was ‘controlling’, and would constantly call, demanding to know where she was.
Plus, tests showed there was no alcohol in Julie’s blood on the day she died.
Prosecutors were sure Art had staged the whole scene, from putting the knife in Julie’s hand, down to pretending to vomit when he called police.
Lawyer Eric Olsen accused Art Gonzales of ‘lying repeatedly’ to the court about his affair, and about the alleged attack.
He said, ‘The only evidence that Julie Gonzales came at Art Gonzales with a knife comes from Art Gonzales.
‘Two worlds came together that day, and the result was the death of Julie Gonzales,’ he added.
A forensic expert testified that one of the bullets had hit a hard surface as it’d passed through Julie.
The prosecution claimed this was proof that Julie was on the floor when Art shot her – hardly the actions of an FBI agent shooting in self-defence.
Yet the defence produced forensic evidence, too.
There was gunshot residue both on Art’s hands and on Julie’s, as well as on the knife.
Did this support Art’s story that his wife had attacked him first?
In his closing arguments, defence lawyer Mark Gardner said, ‘Julie charged at him, according to him – surprised him. He looked up, he put his arm up and he pushed her away.
‘She got her balance and immediately came right back at him. He pulled his weapon and he fired, exactly like he’s been trained to do.’
‘There is no real evidence to contradict Art’s claim about what happened in that kitchen.’
So had Art Gonzales acted in self-defence? Or had he killed his wife deliberately in the heat of the moment?
It was up to the judge to decide…
Judge Sarah Deneke cleared Art Gonzales.
‘I have no choice…but to find the defendant not guilty of the crime of manslaughter,’ she ruled, explaining that the presence of gunpowder residue on Julie’s hands and knife were consistent with the defendant’s version of events.
However, she added, ‘There is no rational or reasonable explanation for what happened in that house on 19 April.’
‘The only thing that I’m 100 per cent sure of…is that Julie Gonzales should not be dead.’