Trial begins for woman charged in fatal shooting of her estranged husband

Defense attorneys say killing followed threat and years of abuse

April 02, 2002|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

A Pasadena woman charged with killing her estranged husband on Christmas Day 2000 listened in a courtroom yesterday as prosecutors characterized her as someone determined to win a custody battle, while defense attorneys described her as a battered wife who fired her gun in self-defense.

As the trial of Kelly Ann Clutter began in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, attorneys and witnesses did not dispute that the 35-year-old woman shot and killed her husband, David Clutter Sr., 32, at her home on Solley Road on Dec. 25, 2000. Kelly Clutter called 911 after the shooting and surrendered to police. She told police officers at the scene that she had shot her husband because he had threatened her.

Clutter's attorney, Harold Dwin, said that threat was part of a years-long pattern of spousal abuse. He characterized Clutter as a "little girl" who suffered emotional and physical injury at the hands of her 6-foot-4-inch tall, 290-pound husband.

"This case is about Kelly Clutter the victim, not Kelly Clutter the murderer," Dwin said. "Did he do things to her? Oh yeah, you'll hear a long list."

Dwin said Clutter purchased the weapon, a .357-caliber revolver, because she intended to kill herself. He said his client had written a suicide note.

Assistant State's Attorney Pamela Alban disputed the pattern of abuse outlined by Dwin. Clutter and her husband - who defense attorneys said went to her home the day he was killed in search of his son, despite a court order forbidding him from approaching the home - were embroiled in a bitter divorce and custody battle. Alban said David Clutter was expected to win full custody of the couple's 8-year-old son, David Jr., at a hearing the day after Christmas.

"However, on Dec. 25, Kelly Clutter took matters into her own hands," Alban said.

Anne Arundel County police Detective Matthew Snyder testified that Kelly Clutter had called police to her home Christmas Eve 2000 because her sister and father had come to her home and would not leave. Her relatives told police they were worried Clutter would harm herself and that she had recently purchased a gun. Snyder said a visible upset Clutter told officers that she was fine.

"She was yelling and screaming for them to get out of her house," he said. "There was no indication that she was suicidal."

By the time her relatives left, Snyder said, Clutter had calmed down.

Snyder said police also told Clutter how to renew the protective order against her husband, which was about to expire.

Testimony is to resume today, with police detectives describing the scene after the shooting. Defense attorneys said they plan to call several expert witnesses to describe the pattern of abuse that is a crucial component of their case.

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