PROVO On April 20, 2005, David Ragsdale took a concealed-weapons permit class where he learned five safety rules, including the crucial one always know what's behind your target.
Utah County prosecutors allege Ragsdale ignored those rules when he pulled into an LDS Church parking lot early this year and fired 12 times into his wife, Kristy Ragsdale, not only killing her at the scene but putting others at risk due to the kind of bullets he was using.
"The full metal jacket (bullet) will over-penetrate, go through the target, harm other people potentially," said Michael Stillwell, who has taught a concealed-weapons permit class for 11 years and signed off on Ragsdale's certificate for a concealed gun. "Whatever situation, once that bullet leaves the muzzle, you can't bring it back. You need to make sure you know what's around you and behind the target."
Police found numerous full metal jacket bullet fragments in the parking lot Jan. 6, and numerous brass casings surrounding Kristy Ragsdale's head and body.
"There were 12 entry wounds, indicating 12 rounds that hit her body," Lehi police detective Mark Birch testified Monday during a preliminary hearing in 4th District Court for David Ragsdale, who is charged with aggravated murder.
Judge Claudia Laycock ruled it was clear Ragsdale had pulled the trigger and fatally shot his wife, but the issue was if Ragsdale knowingly put other people at risk of death by this action the factor prosecutors must prove for the aggravated murder charge.
Laycock bound over Ragsdale for trial on one charge of aggravated murder and two charges of domestic violence in the presence of a child. He will be in court again 1:30 p.m. July 9 for a pre-trial conference.
For the judge, the most telling piece of evidence was a stray bullet.
"I find it most illuminating to me that there was a bullet that went into the radiator of the red minivan," Laycock said. "However focused the defendant was when he was shooting, nevertheless there was a bullet that did not go immediately close to (Kristy Ragsdale's) body."
That bullet pierced the van roughly four feet away from where Robert Aaron Wiggington and his two boys, ages 8 and 5, were walking into the church building.
Wiggington testified Monday that they were walking toward the church when they heard the shooting.
"It takes a few seconds to look behind my shoulder, take into account what's happening, in that time there's a couple more gunshots," Wiggington said. "I grabbed my two boys' hands and ran toward the building."
Wiggington said that as he looked over his shoulder he saw a man shooting a woman, about 15 feet away.
He said he heard more than 10 shots and was sure his children heard them as well.
During Monday's hearing, prosecutors had each witness point out on a giant aerial map how they entered the parking lot, what direction they traveled, where they parked and whether they first heard or saw the gunshots.
Sandy police officer Jeff Fewkes said he and his family were a bit late to church that morning and heard gunshots just after 11 a.m. as they pulled into a parking spot. He said his wife asked him what the sounds were.
"I said it was probably someone in their backyard, doing fireworks, doing something stupid," he said.
"Initially you didn't think they were gunshots?" prosecutor Craig Johnson asked.
No, Fewkes said. It was only after he got out of the car that Fewkes heard someone say, "'She's been shot!"' and he followed the sound of the voice.
He found Kristy Ragsdale lying face down in the snow and her mother, Ann Palizzi, standing about five feet away from her, although he didn't know either one of them.
He said he asked Palizzi what happened and she repeated something about her daughter being shot.
As he bent down to look at Kristy, Fewkes said he noticed eight or nine small holes in her black sweater. He said he lifted up her shirt and saw there was "blood all over."
"I got up, surveyed the area, didn't know where the threat may have come from, didn't know what happened, so I had my wife go home to get my firearm," Fewkes said.
Several people had gathered by this time, calling 911 and even starting CPR. Palizzi testified she went into the church at first to warn the bishop to secure the area in case Ragsdale came back. She said she also used Kristy's phone to try to find out from David Ragsdale's siblings where the couple's two young children were.
Other witnesses said they heard the shooting, then saw Ragsdale drive away in his BMW. He turned himself in to police hours later.
Scott Wiggins testified that he first heard a shot but thought it was a pneumatic nail gun due to recent construction. However, as he looked for the source of the sound, he said he saw a man in a dark jacket shooting at something on the ground. Prosecutors asked him to come off the stand and demonstrate the two-handed, bent-over shooting position.
"Do you recall how many shots were fired?" prosecutor Dave Sturgill asked.
Wiggins said he heard the first shot then turned in time to see six others."I remember two, three-round bursts," he said. "The succession was very rhythmic. Tut tut tut, tut tut tut."
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