Attorney: Soldier on trial in death of wife suffered from mental health issues
By Bruce Vielmetti | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Published: January 8, 2014
Keith Brooks joined the Army for a better paycheck and better protection for his young family, but during his time away in the service, he began to suspect his young wife of infidelity, his attorney told a jury that will decide whether Brooks later killed Anita Brooks or whether she shot herself.
When the stress of combat duty in Afghanistan ultimately led to his own suicide attempt and discharge from the military, Brooks rejoined his wife and young daughter in Milwaukee, where things only got worse, the attorney said.
Attorney John Moore told jurors Tuesday that Brooks, 29, blamed the relationship's wrong turn on his wife joining a college sorority, and even began to think she was having sexual relationships with old sorority sisters, a suggestion that sent some of Anita Brooks' relatives out of the courtroom in disgust.
Moore said in the five days before Anita Brooks' death on Jan. 27, 2013, her husband was not taking his medications, smoked a lot of pot and interrogated her abusively. But Brooks finally decided he was leaving for good, and Anita, 27, was "not happy about it," Moore said.
She tried to stop Brooks, and he pushed her away, then slapped her to the ground. But as he walked away again, she took a .380 caliber handgun he had left with her for protection, Moore said.
According to Moore, Brooks heard a click, turned, saw Anita point the gun at her head and then tried to run back to her, but was too late. He tackled her and yelled, "Are you hit? Are you hit? Almost like tending to a buddy in a fire fight in Afghanistan," Moore said.
Jurors heard about a minute of the 12-minute 911 call Brooks made after the shooting. In it, he can be heard crying, screaming and distraught. The couple's toddler daughter can be heard in the background.
In the prosecution's opening statement Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Shomin said Brooks' behavior toward his wife and the scientific evidence about her fatal head wound will prove overwhelmingly that she died of homicide at her husband's hand, not suicide.
Moore promised jurors that the defense's own, more experienced forensic experts will say the wound is consistent with suicide.
According to Moore, Keith and Anita Brooks met in college in Pine Bluff, Ark., married after two years of dating and moved to Little Rock after graduation. After Keith joined the Army, he was away often — at basic training, a posting in Colorado and finally in Afghanistan.
After what the Army described as a suicide attempt in Afghanistan, he was returned to the U.S. for mental health treatment but ultimately discharged last fall. He came to Milwaukee, his wife's hometown, where she and their daughter had been living. A California native, Brooks had never lived in Wisconsin, had no support network and had a "hard time adjusting," Moore said.