A Willard man was found guilty of manslaughter Friday in the shooting death of his wife last October.
Roger Wells, 45, Willard, had been charged with second-degree murder in the Oct. 25 death of Carol Wells, 42. He was convicted of manslaughter by a five-woman, three-man jury following four days of testimony.Wells testified that he shot his wife twice in the head. After writing a letter to his sons, he testified, he lay down next to his wife, held her hand and told her goodbye. He said he intended to shoot himself but did not because he was afraid he wouldn't die but become a "vegetable."
Wells said he drove his pickup truck several hundred yards behind the house and rigged a hose from the exhaust pipe into the cab. He was found several hours later, unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Wells faces a one-to-15-year prison sentence, $10,000 fine and additional time in prison for use of a firearm. Defense attorney Martin Custen said 1st District Judge Gordon Low could impose that maximum sentence, place Wells on probation with no jail time, or any combination between the two extremes.
Wells had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but Custen said he felt the jury's verdict was justified by the evidence. He said he would not recommend that Wells appeal.
Wells remains free on his original $50,000 bond. A pre-sentence report is to be completed by Sept. 19. Custen said he would request a sentencing hearing before sentence is pronounced.
Dr. Michael DeCaria, a clinical psychologist who testified as a defense witness, said that Wells has a narcissistic personality disorder, a lifelong behavior pattern that prevents normal functioning and would give him feelings of grandiosity.
He said the disorder plus an unusual amount of stress could trigger a brief reactive psychosis, which would cause Wells to lose his ability to act voluntarily and rationally.
Both court-appointed psychiatrists testified that Wells had no symptoms of mental illness, but shot his wife in the heat of passion and without forethought.
The intense emotional reaction Wells felt when his wife taunted him just before her death was reasonable under the circumstances, Dr. Louis Moench testified. But he knew he was shooting his wife and that the bullets would be lethal.
In closing arguments County Attorney Jon Bunderson said, "She was his beautiful, gilded bird in a cage. His love for her was true but it was a smothering, suffocating love that she was trying to get out from under, which wasn't such a bad thing to do. And for that she suffered the death penalty."
Bunderson said that throughout the investigation and trial Wells had tried to put the blame on someone else - first on his wife's boyfriend and then on her. "No one is here to take Carol's side. She is in the cold ground. What she did wasn't good or right but she didn't deserve to get killed. He had no right to execute her."
In his closing argument, Custen said everyone has a breaking point, and Wells had been pushed beyond his. He said Wells lost his identity and his ability to reason, and didn't realize the consequences of what he was doing.