Todd Koolmo says his wife is dead because he was drunk, not because they were divorcing.
"I didn't intentionally kill her," he said from the Salt Lake County Jail Tuesday. "I've never, ever wanted any harm to come to her. I don't know if I can ever forgive myself."The Sugar House man said he voluntarily submitted to police questioning after the shooting because he didn't have anything to hide. But when he was arraigned Monday on a charge of murder, a first-degree felony, he felt betrayed.
"They (police) put in their words and they took my words out," he said. Koolmo said he believes prosecutors charged him with a first-degree felony because they believe he committed a "premeditated act." What happened to his wife of more than 10 years, he said, was anything but premeditated.
"This wasn't a planned thing," he told the Deseret News in a telephone interview. "I know deep in my heart that I did not mean to shoot her. I did not aim that gun at her. I waved it in her direction and it went off."
In fact, the day his wife was killed was actually a good day for the couple. They'd purchased a hot tub and were waiting for it to be delivered. To celebrate, they drank - too much, he says now. When the delivery driver called to say they wouldn't be bringing the hot tub until the next day, Koolmo said his wife got upset and that started a fight between them.
They argued about nothing in particular, he said, and in what had apparently become a recent habit for the couple, he threatened to leave. Both threatened divorce. As he sat in another room of the house with his bags packed, he said his wife came to him with the gun that eventually ended her life.
"She actually handed me the gun, and said, `Why don't you just kill yourself?' " he said. Koolmo said he sat there, the semi-automatic, .45-caliber gun in his hand, thinking about what she'd just said.
"We said mean things to each other," he said. "But that was the end of it. . . . It got to the point where the only thing we could hurt each other with . . . was words. (Divorce) is what we'd say to each other to really hurt each other."
But in the haze of alcohol, Koolmo wasn't thinking that way. He walked into the living room where his wife sat on the couch watching television. He stood off to the side of her and Melissa Koolmo looked away from him.
He raised his fist, which clutched the gun, and shook it at her.
"It discharged," he said.
He said he thought his wife flinched and he saw the curtains behind her move.
Koolmo said his first thought was, "Whoa, this thing wasn't even supposed to be loaded, and I took out the window . . . , and I'm going to hear about it."
Melissa Koolmo was shot in the face and the shoulder. When asked by police why he fired a second shot, he said he honestly couldn't remember firing another bullet.
But sitting in jail, he said he's since replayed that night's events over and over in his head. He now remembers why he shot the gun a second time.
"I thought, `Well, I'll just break the other (window) on the other side, and that'll really show her. . . . I just remember pointing it toward the window and `Pop.'
"I went into the dining room, and I sat the gun on the table," he said, explaining that he then walked back into the living room and called to his wife.
"She didn't say anything," he said. "She just looked straight ahead, and that's when she started to bleed. . . . Then it started to get real slow and something didn't feel right, and the blood just started to come out of her nose and mouth.
"I didn't know what to think. I didn't even have a clue. . . . I didn't mean to shoot her, so I wasn't like looking like, `Oh, let's see where I hit her.'
"I didn't even know I hit her. I put her down (on the ground). I told her to hold on, hold on. I tried to stop the bleeding but it wouldn't stop."
Koolmo ran downstairs and asked the tenant of the basement apartment for help. That man called police and stayed on the line until officers arrived.
Melissa Koolmo was still alive after being shot in the face, although her husband said she was "struggling to breathe." He apologized and then left the house, he said, in order to call her mother and tell her what had happened to Melissa.
He ran about a quarter of a mile to a pay phone at the Brickyard Plaza. He said he couldn't remember the number so he called his own mother instead. Then he called police and waited until they arrived to arrest him.
Koolmo said by telling his story he's not trying to escape responsibility, he just wants to set the record straight.
"I don't expect to ever get out (of jail)," he said. "I know I deserve punishment . . . but the punishment I go through every minute is worse than . . . Every minute I'm here, I think about it. Every minute I'm here I picture it. Every minute I'm here just drags on because I just keep thinking that I'm going to get to talk to her.
"I would rather have had a divorce and been friends than not to ever have her in my life."
There are many things he wishes he could do differently - starting with having that night to live over again.
"I wish I could turn back time. . . . I wish we weren't both drinking. I wish I didn't have a gun in the house."
Koolmo said he and his wife were happy and spent all of their free time together. He characterized their fights as "tame" and no more frequent than any marriage.
But the drinking - especially for him - had gotten worse in the months before the shooting.
"I needed to not be drinking," Koolmo said. "It seemed I had to have something to drink all the time. . . . It seemed it took more and more to get me to the point where I felt . . . comfortable."
He said police asked if anyone could confirm his drinking habits or his characterization of the couple's relationship.
"My best friend is the only one that can do that and she's not here."