- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - An elderly Missouri woman accused of killing her husband in Wyoming almost 40 years ago initially told authorities she shot him to protect her young daughter but later said she shot him as he slept, a Wyoming state investigator testified Monday.

What Alice Uden, 75, of Chadwick, Missouri, said under questioning is key to both the prosecution’s case that she shot Ronald Holtz in a calculated act and her defense team’s argument that she acted in desperation to protect her 2-year-old daughter and herself from Holtz.

Prosecutors played snippets of a video recording of one interview and an audio recording of a follow-up interview two days later, both of which happened in late September at the Christian County sheriff’s office in Missouri.

In the first interview, Uden gave a detailed account of shooting Holtz to protect her daughter, Erica Prunty. In the follow-up interview, investigators switched to audio-only recording equipment after encountering a problem with the video gear they had used earlier.

“I was terrified of him. He’d threatened to kill my daughter,” Uden could be heard saying in the audio recording played for jurors.

Uden then said she shot Holtz when he was asleep at their Cheyenne trailer home, Tina Trimble, a Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agent, testified Monday.

That portion of the audio wasn’t clearly audible in court, however, despite being played twice.

Testimony began Thursday in Uden’s first-degree murder trial in Laramie County District Court. Last week, jurors heard two of Uden’s five children testify that she had told them she shot Holtz as he slept.

Prosecutors said Uden killed her 24-year-old third husband sometime between Christmas Eve 1974 and early February 1975. Uden filed for divorce after Holtz disappeared and was missing until investigators dug up his remains in an abandoned mine shaft on a southeast Wyoming ranch last summer.

Authorities arrested Uden and her fourth and current husband, Gerald Uden, 71, in Missouri in September. Gerald Uden recently pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder for killing his ex-wife and her two sons in central Wyoming in 1980.

Investigators haven’t linked the two cases, and jurors in Alice Uden’s trial haven’t heard testimony or evidence involving Gerald Uden.

Holtz had been a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam and had a history of problems with violent outbursts, suicide attempts and drug abuse, according to testimony Monday. Alice Uden was a nurse in the Veterans Administration hospital in Sheridan when she met Holtz, a psychiatric patient, in summer 1974.

Uden and Holtz married in September 1974, and defense attorneys say Holtz soon became abusive to Uden and her toddler daughter. Holtz became enraged one day by the little girl’s crying, Uden told Trimble in the videotaped interview.

“Erica was screaming and he said he was going to kill her,” Uden said in the video.

She told Trimble she got her rifle and shot him in the back of the head. She also described taking her daughter to Holtz’s parents’ house in the Denver area, then returning to her home and putting Holtz’s body in a cardboard barrel.

She rolled the barrel to her car, she said, and drove it to the mine on the Remount Ranch. Uden and her second husband, Donald Prunty, who died in 1973, had been caretakers at the ranch.

“It wasn’t very easy. But I had enough adrenaline going that I made it,” she said.

Uden showed little reaction as she followed Monday’s court proceedings from a wheelchair. She had thin, white hair and used a court-supplied hearing aid.

A forensic pathologist, Dr. James Wilkerson, testified earlier Monday about recovering a small-caliber bullet from Holtz’s skull. The bullet’s likely path between the entry point at the right rear of the skull and the bone behind the left eye was consistent with Holtz being shot either as he was lying down or standing up, Wilkerson said.

“Any scenario where you could line up the weapon with the track of the bullet is possible,” he said.

Testimony resumes Tuesday.

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