“Personally, I would like to take a gun and shoot him.”
Anne Kelly, Debora's mother
It was the 9th of October 2015. A Friday. Forty eight year old Debora Kelly went to bed early. She had just returned from a work trip. Debora had recently been promoted to Vice President of National Surgical Healthcare and the role involved more travel and work. Debora wanted an early night as she had arranged to play tennis early the next morning. She loved spending time on the tennis court and had made many close friends through tennis. She enjoyed the matches and spending time with them.
That night, the 9th of October, Debora's dog Cody went to bed at the same time as her and he fell asleep on the floor beside her bed. Debora's husband Lars Itzo didn't go to bed at the same time. Debora and Lars had been married for two years and they met when Debora bought a house in a gated community in San Antonio in Texas, United States. Debora hired Lars to do some work on the house. He worked as a contractor and when the work was almost finished, he asked her out. They were different in some ways as Debora was very active and always doing something whereas Lars was quiet and laid back but they enjoyed spending time together and being outdoors.
Lars Itzo and Debora Kelly
That night, Lars went to bed just after midnight. A few hours later, around 4.30 am, Lars called 911. Debora had been shot. They talked Lars through how to do CPR and how to try to stop the bleeding but when the paramedics arrived, they realized that Debora was dead. She had been shot once in the chest.
What happened to Debora?
From the outset, Lars admitted that he was the person who shot Debora but he claimed that it had been a terrible accident. According to Lars, he heard Cody growling, something that he claimed Cody never did. Lars told police that he heard noises and the sound of two people talking in the hallway. According to Lars, he grabbed his 20-gauge sawed-off shotgun and went into the hallway. Lars saw a shape and shot. The person fell to the floor. He tried to reload but couldn't so ran back into the bedroom to get his handgun. It was then that he heard a woman moaning in the hallway and he realized he had shot his wife. Lars told police that he had no idea it was his wife when he shot her and thought it was an intruder. He said:
“I get up, I see a light, hear people talking, and the next thing I know, I see someone in front of me, and I shot.”
“I go to get another gun, then I hear this moaning and realize it’s my wife. I never wanted to hurt my wife, ever. I loved my wife very much.”
Police had a few concerns with the account Lars provided. There were inconsistencies in his account as to what exactly woke him up and made him get up out of bed as he claimed at one point he initially heard a creak, then claimed it was the dog Cody growling that he heard and then told police it was voices that he heard. Due to that, he offered to take a polygraph test at the police station and some of the answers were classed as deceptive. Police questioned him further.
Police were aware that when Lars called 911, the dispatcher told Lars to do CPR and Lars told police that he followed their instructions. Yet, they said that when they saw Lars at the house, his hands were clean and there was no blood on them. They also believed that his tears at the police station were forced tears.
Lars was charged with a two-count indictment which included the offenses of felony murder and manslaughter.
He pleaded not guilty to both charges.
It was the Prosecution's case that Lars should be found guilty of murder. They believed that his story that he thought Debora was an intruder was nonsensical. It was their case that he knew it was his wife and then, when he shot her in the chest, he faked his efforts to help her.
The Court heard that when police arrived at the house after Lars made the 911 call, he was naked and the police said that his hands appeared clean. There were no bloody footprints or smears around Debora's body.
The Court heard that while Lars cried in the early hours of the 10th of October, after Debora was shot, the police did not believe it was real. They believed that the grief was forced. A San Antonio Police Department homicide detective, Robert Bunnell, testified. He told the Court that he did not see any tears and it looked like Lars was "trying to sob" and that:
“Everything seemed forced with him. I’m not buying what he’s trying to display.”
The Medical Examiner who performed Debora's Autopsy testified and told the Court that Debora was shot once in the chest and that she died from a single gunshot wound to the chest. The wound was the size of a tennis ball and the hole that was left in Debora's shirt from the shotgun shell was 2½ inches by 1 inch.
The Medical Examiner testified that Debora's injuries indicated that the gun was fired at a close range of three to four feet. The Court heard that Debora's injuries were not something that you could survive.
Lars Itzo and Debora Kelly
The Court heard that no gunshot residue was found on Lars.
The Prosecution urged the Jury to find Lars guilty of murder and told them that whatever the motive was, it was clear that the intent was to kill. The Prosecutor told the Jury:
"You don’t fire a weapon unless you intend to kill someone."
The Prosecution did not believe that the motive was money as Lars wasn’t a beneficiary of Debora's assets with the exception of the house, which would be shared with her parents. They believed that he may have been resentful of his wife, both in terms of her success at work and the fact she spent a lot of her free time with other people instead of with him. Lars earned significantly less than Debora made and the Court heard she was independent and liked spending time with friends and doing her own thing.
The Court heard testimony from Debora's father Jim Kelly. Jim told the Jury that he noticed quarreling when Lars and Debora would visit. He said that there was a lot of tension between them due to Debora's career and her recent promotion:
"She was a very successful person. A VP of a national company, very successful and doing well."
It was the Defense's case that Lars was not guilty as not only did he not intend to kill his wife, he wasn't reckless either as he believed he was trying to protect his wife from an intruder. His Defense Attorney told the Court that the shooting was nothing more than an accident and Lars was not guilty of anything other than “committing the biggest mistake of his life” by shooting Debora.
The Court heard testimony from Lars himself. He told the Court that he heard suspicious noises and believed that his wife was in bed at the time. According to Lars, the noises were strange and he believed there was an intruder in the house. He thought there may have been two intruders as he thought he heard two voices. He told the Court that he got out of bed, went to his living room and he heard a creaking noise. He also saw a flash of light.
Lars went back to the bedroom and grabbed his sawed-off shotgun. He testified that he kept the shotgun on his side of the bed.
Lars testified that when he went back into the hallway, he saw a movement and shot at a figure in the hallway. He tried to reload but it was taking too long so he went back to the bedroom to get a handgun. He told the Court that the hallway was dark and he only realized it was his wife when he heard her moan after he had shot her.
Lars told the Court that he loved his wife very much and did not want to harm her.
The Jury found Lars not guilty of murder but they found him guilty of manslaughter.
It would be up to the Jury to recommend a sentence based on the verdict they handed down. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony and as such, Lars faced up to 20 years in prison.
At the sentencing phase of the Trial, the Court heard from family from Debora's side and from family members on behalf of Lars. His brother, Ken Itzo, told the Jury that he believed if Lars received a prison sentence that would not be a fair punishment as the shooting was a big mistake. His family told the Jury that he would be greatly missed by them if he was sent to prison and he meant a lot to them all. They asked the Jury to consider a supervised release or probation option. The Court heard that Lars was a good person and prior to the conviction, had never been in trouble before.
Debora's family did not agree. Her mother, Anne Kelly, told the Jury and Lars:
“I just don’t know why someone would not take three seconds to reach over and make sure your wife was next to you. It doesn’t make any sense to me, Lars.”
The Court heard from Debora's father Jim Kelly, and he said that he was “demoralized” by the manslaughter verdict. He told the Court that he regrets not having "doubled or tripled the time I spent with her.”
The Jury deliberated and at one point told the Judge that they were deadlocked but after five hours of deliberations, they told the Court that they had a recommendation. The jury forewoman was in tears when she entered the Court and the Court heard that the Jury recommended that Lars should be sentenced to fifteen years in prison and a $10K fine. Based on the Jury’s recommendation, the Court sentenced Lars to fifteen years’ imprisonment and a $10K fine. Lars must serve at least half his prison term before being eligible for parole.
At the time of the Trial, the case drew attention to the Oscar Pistorius case due to the similarities between the two shootings.
Lars appealed but the Judgment was affirmed and Lars remains incarcerated.
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"But I'm a woman, and as the great poet so cleverly wrote, hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. Consider me your personal hell."
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