Up until the time he sat his wife down on a love seat and shot her six times in the little North Highlands apartment they shared, Daniel Weddle had hoped that somehow they could make their relationship work.
He loved his wife, he said, and he couldn’t believe he drilled a .38-caliber slug through her heart. That wasn’t him, he said. It was the heat of passion, brought on by her serving him with divorce papers and then giving him a dirty look that suggested he didn’t have what it takes to squeeze the trigger when he pulled a pistol on her.
Then, after he called his mother first and the 911 operator second, and after he cried to the dispatcher about wanting to kill himself, and after sheriff’s deputies put him in the back seat of a patrol car, and as he sat all by himself inside with the camera still running, Weddle, 50, had a little something to say.
“I wonder,” Weddle said, “if the bitch is dead.”
That remark was the subject of some discussion Tuesday in the closing arguments of Weddle’s murder trial, brought on by the fatal Dec. 1, 2011, shooting of his wife, Margaret, 46, in the apartment in the 3600 block of Bellinger Court.
Deputy District Attorney Aaron Miller played it as his ace card. He told the Sacramento Superior Court jury hearing the case that out of everything Weddle said to sheriff’s detectives after the fact and in his trial testimony, the No. 1 thing that the panel needs to keep in mind during its deliberations was the remark the defendant made inside the patrol car.
“It was the statement of a man who was wondering if what he set out to do was done,” Miller told the jury, in arguing for a first-degree murder conviction.
Assistant Public Defender Rachel Engle said that if the jurors look at the patrol-car video closely, they might be able to see some moisture in Weddle’s eyes. Engle said that in her listening to the comment, “I don’t hear anything in that video that (indicates) he intended and had a plan to kill.” The video, she said, does nothing to contradict Weddle’s defense that he snapped inside the apartment. Mainly, she said, it was used by the prosecution to make the jury dislike her client.
“It doesn’t show anything,” said Engle, who implored the jury in Judge Cheryl Chun Meegan’s courtroom to come back with a finding of voluntary manslaughter.
Daniel Weddle, a one-time maintenance man, and Margaret Weddle, a caregiver and apartment manager, had gone through divorce once before, according to evidence at trial. When it was finalized, they lived separately for more than five years before they rediscovered each other and gave matrimony another chance.
The second marriage lasted longer than the first but ended similarly. They split up six weeks before the killing. It wasn’t so bad that the relationship was over – she even had him over to spend an occasional night together during the estrangement. He visited her the day before the killing and the two of them were acting “lovey dovey,” Engle said.
On the day of her death, however, Margaret dropped into family law court and pulled the papers she served on Daniel when he dropped by for another visit. By all accounts, he blew up when he was served with the documented notice that as far as she was concerned their marriage was through. Then he walked into her bedroom, grabbed a semi-automatic handgun he had given her for self-protection and wound up shooting her to death.
“He put six bullets in her because he could not personally deal with (divorce),” Miller told the jury. “Divorce, unfortunately, is part of everyday life. Instead of going through the divorce process as a part of normal, everyday life, the defendant murdered his wife. It’s really that simple.”
Nothing is ever so simple when love is involved, Engle argued. It’s “the most compelling emotion,” the defense lawyer said, one that can bring in a lot of unpredictable feelings such as jealousy, betrayal and anger. She quoted Daniel Weddle’s trial testimony that “I felt like my world was ending, like I was worthless, nothing.”
Weddle suggested that his wife drove him to kill her with the dirty look “that (told) him just how foolish he was for ever thinking and hoping” they’d get back together, Engle said. So he retrieved the gun and forced her to sit down on the love seat, and she told him to get out, which Engle said really meant, “You’re not man enough to do this.”
The district attorney said there was more to the case than the raw emotion of the moment. Margaret Weddle’s roommate, who moved in when her husband moved out, testified that the defendant told her he was thinking about killing his wife “in hopes it would cause his wife to feel sorry for him or scare her into getting back together with him,” Miller said.
Engle questioned the roommate’s credibility, but Miller said another indication of premeditation occurred when Weddle tried to kill his wife and the gun jammed. Then he jiggled the magazine to make the gun work, Miller said, and it did.
“Bottom line is, if someone in the state of California, in the United States of America, wants a divorce, they have a right to get one, without being murdered,” Miller said. He told the jury that if it comes back with a manslaughter verdict, “it would essentially sanction” killing without the most serious consequence “in every case a man cannot handle his life.”
Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.