- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - An attorney for an elderly Missouri woman accused of murder in her husband’s shooting death almost 40 years ago in Wyoming said in opening statements Thursday she acted in a desperate effort to protect herself and her 2-year-old daughter from a habitually violent man.

Prosecutors argued Alice Uden shot Ronald Holtz, 25, with a .22-caliber rifle in the back of his head while he slept - a “calculated and malicious” act.

After the shooting, Uden “just moved on - no remorse,” prosecutor Leigh Anne Manlove told the just-seated jury of eight women and six men.

Uden, now 75, sat placidly in a wheelchair throughout the proceedings. She wore a maroon suit and white blouse. She had short, white hair and wire glasses.

Authorities arrested Uden and her current husband, Gerald Uden, 71, both of Chadwick, Missouri, last fall. Depending on what Laramie County District Judge Steven Sharpe may rule, jurors in Alice Uden’s trial might not get to hear that Gerald Uden pleaded guilty last fall and has begun serving a life sentence for killing his ex-wife and her two sons in central Wyoming in 1980.

Investigators have not linked the two cases. Alice Uden’s attorneys have asked Sharpe not to allow jurors to hear anything about Gerald Uden’s case.

Sharpe has declined to rule on the request unless prosecutors seek to introduce information about Gerald Uden at trial, which didn’t happen Thursday.

Prosecutors allege Alice Uden shot Holtz sometime between Christmas Eve 1974 and early February 1975. Jurors in the days ahead will get to hear a variety of testimony and see evidence including Holtz’s skull, Manlove told them.

“And you will have the opportunity to see the bullet hole at the base of it,” she said.

Uden shot Holtz and disposed of his body, defense attorney Donald Miller told jurors, but under much different circumstances than prosecutors allege.

Uden met Holtz in the summer of 1974, when she was a nurse at a Veterans Administration hospital in Sheridan and he was a patient in the hospital’s psychiatric unit, Miller said.

Miller said Holtz began being abusive to her and her 2-year-old daughter, Erica Prunty, soon after they married that September. Miller told jurors that one day, Uden was preparing breakfast or dinner - which meal it was didn’t matter, he said - when she heard Holtz yelling at Erica.

He said Holtz hit Uden in the back, pushed her aside and went to attack the toddler. Uden got a rifle and shot him in the back of the head, he said.

Mr. Holtz was an extremely, extremely violent man,” Miller said. “He wasn’t there to read her a nighttime story. He was there to harm her. And Alice stopped it.”

The first prosecution witness was retired state Division of Criminal Investigation agent Lonnie TeBeest, who testified that Alice Uden didn’t mention Holtz when he questioned her in 2005 about her previous marriages.

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