FORT DODGE, IOWA An Iowa judge sentenced a woman to life in prison Monday for killing a neighbor in the small northwest Iowa town of Early as part of a plot to frame her ex-husband.
Tracey Richter claimed she shot 20-year-old Dustin Wehde in her Early home in 2001 after he and another man broke in and strangled her with pantyhose. She appeared on national television soon after the shooting, telling how she killed Wehde to protect herself and her three children.
Jurors sided with prosecutors, who said Richter made up the story as part of a convoluted plot to frame her ex-husband. They said Richter then shot Wehde to keep him quiet.
Richter was sentenced in Webster County District Court after being convicted of first-degree murder Nov. 7. The conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole in Iowa, which doesn't have a death penalty.
Before her trial, Richter lived in Omaha, Neb.
Prosecutors had maintained that Richter, now 45, killed Wehde to keep him quiet about his role in a plot to frame her ex-husband. They said Richter lured Wehde to her home in December 2001, had him write in a pink notebook that her ex-husband hired him to kill her and her son, and then shot him nine times with two guns.
Richter was involved in a custody fight at the time, and prosecutors said she was trying to gain an advantage before an upcoming hearing to keep from losing her son and $1,000-a-month child support payments.
The prosecution's star witness was a former family friend who testified Richter told her about the notebook a few months after the shooting and then later told her to forget about it. Investigators testified they had found the notebook in Wehde's car but kept its existence secret because they believed whoever knew about its contents had committed a crime.
The notebook included references to Richter's first husband, Virginia plastic surgeon John Pitman III, but he testified he never met Wehde and knew nothing about the notebook.