Soldier not guilty in husband’s killing
October 19, 2007
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — After nearly three hours of deliberations, an eight-member jury on Thursday found Spc. Latasha Ricks not guilty of murdering her husband when she stabbed him in the heart with a kitchen knife on April 2.
Ricks faced one charge of unpremeditated murder for the death of her 29-year-old husband, Levin Peters. Ricks could have spent the rest of her life in jail if convicted.
After the verdict was announced and the judge left the courtroom, Ricks turned and hugged her defense attorneys Maj. Sean Wilson and Maj. Mark Vetter. Ricks then hugged Peters’ mother and stepfather, who both testified that Peters had violent episodes when drinking.
Outside the courtroom, Ricks’ mother, Jacqueline Cofield, hugged her daughter and repeatedly said, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord.”
Attorneys finished their closing arguments late Wednesday afternoon, and at about 8:45 a.m. Thursday, the jury began deliberating to determine whether Ricks intentionally murdered her husband or killed him in self-defense.
Ricks testified that she and Peters began arguing near midnight on April 1 in their Sulzbachtal apartment. Ricks told her husband she no longer wanted to be with him, she testified.
Peters had been drinking and was known to be violent when drunk, Ricks said. Previously, Peters had attempted to kill Ricks on two occasions, and during a separate incident in the States, Peters brandished a chain saw when confronted by two large men who wanted to fight, according to testimony this week.
Moments before he was stabbed in the early morning hours of April 2, Peters grabbed Ricks’ wrists, leaving bruises, according to testimony. Peters also punched her in the face, Ricks said.
Ricks ran to the kitchen where she grabbed four large knives, wielding two in each hand, according to her testimony.
Peters kept coming at Ricks even when she swung the knives to keep him back. As Peters approached, Ricks “pushed the knife forward,” she said. Ricks did not realize she stabbed her husband until she saw blood, she testified.
With the knife piercing his heart, Peters died in minutes, said Dr. Bianca Navarro, a German forensic pathologist who testified during the court-martial.
Peters’ alcohol level at the time of death was so severe that only those who had built up a considerable tolerance to alcohol would be able to function, Navarro testified.