European edition, Tuesday, July 31, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Spc. Latasha Ricks and her husband, Levin Peters, became entangled in a domestic dispute after midnight on April 2 that ended in Peters’ death.

Ricks admitted to German police minutes later that she had stabbed her husband in self-defense.

An Article 32 hearing in the case began Monday morning in Kaiserslautern. Ricks, assigned to the 1st Personnel Command, faces charges of premeditated murder and involuntary manslaughter. If the case makes it to trial, Ricks could be convicted of only one charge.

Based on a toxicology report discussed Monday, the nearly 5-foot-9, 123-pound Peters had a blood-alcohol level seven times greater than the German legal limit to drive. Ricks did not have alcohol or drugs in her system, according to her toxicology report.

Ricks immediately told her version of the incident to German police who initially arrived on the scene April 2. Even after the German police officer informed her of her legal rights, Ricks told her story a second time, according to police testimony.

Around midnight April 2, Ricks was doing laundry in the couple’s Sulzbachtal apartment, about 9 miles north of Kaiserslautern. Peters asked Ricks if she wanted to leave and divorce him, according to the testimony of German police officer Jürgen Niklasch. Ricks said yes, the police officer testified.

At that point, Peters grabbed Ricks by the arms and pushed her. The argument continued with Peters slapping Ricks in the face, Niklasch said. The event ended with Ricks cutting Peters with a kitchen knife. One wound was superficial, but the other was to Peters’ left chest that pierced his heart, according to testimony from the German doctor who performed Peters’ autopsy.

When German police arrived, Ricks was kneeling over her husband in the bathroom, screaming “don’t die,” Niklasch said. Ricks had her left hand pressed on Peters’ stomach, Niklasch said.

“It was absolutely clear that she was trying to help him,” Niklasch said.

Two children in the house slept through the entire event, Niklasch said. A blood splatter expert concluded that Peters was standing when he was stabbed. Also, Ricks had bruises on her face and arms sometime after the incident, according to testimony Monday.

The victim’s high level of intoxication at the time of his death is indicative of alcoholism, the German doctor testified. Also, Army investigators found 12 empty bottles of hard liquor in the apartment.

Following the Article 32 hearing, a recommendation will be made if the case should proceed to court-martial.

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