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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — That Spc. Latasha Ricks delivered a fatal stab wound to her husband’s heart this April is not in dispute.

What an eight-member jury of officers and enlisted soldiers will determine is if Ricks acted in self-defense or intentionally killed her civilian husband Levin Peters.

Ricks faces one charge of unpremeditated murder in a court-martial that began Tuesday in Kaiserslautern.

If convicted, Ricks could be imprisoned for life without the chance for parole.

The case is one of four fatal stabbings to occur in Germany this year involving a U.S. Army spouse or girlfriend.

The charge of murder best describes Ricks’ actions on the evening of April 1 and the early morning hours of April 2, said Capt. Jeffrey Rohrbach, the prosecutor.

“‘I told [Peters] before I ran to the kitchen I was tired of going through this,’” Rohrbach said, as he began his opening statement Tuesday by quoting from a statement Ricks gave investigators.

Maj. Sean Wilson, Ricks’ defense attorney, pointed out to the jury the history of violence in the couple’s marriage.

“You will hear how [Peters] physically abused Specialist Ricks for a number of years and attempted to kill her twice,” Wilson said. “… You will hear that not many things deter Levin Peters when he’s drunk and angry.”

Wilson ended his opening statement by saying Ricks’ actions were completely justified.

Shortly after midnight on April 2, German police officer Jürgen Niklasch arrived at Ricks’ Sulzbachtal apartment, about nine miles north of Kaiserslautern. Ricks was straddling her husband, who was lying on the bathroom floor, according to Niklasch’s testimony. With one hand, Ricks was pressing a towel on Peters’ stomach, and with her other hand, she was shaking her husband’s head, the police officer said. Niklasch said Ricks was hysterical and shouting, “Don’t die. Come on.”

“From my point of view, [Ricks] was trying to help him,” Niklasch said.

A while later, she told the police officer what happened. At that time, Niklasch advised her of her legal rights to an attorney and her right to remain silent. Yet Ricks told the police officer her version of the stabbing again, Niklasch testified Tuesday.

Even when questioned in the days after the incident by German and U.S. Army investigators, Ricks never asked for a lawyer or invoked her right to remain silent, Wilson noted.

On the evening of April 1, Peters grabbed Ricks’ wrists, punched her in the face and shoved her after she told her husband she wanted a divorce, according to Niklasch’s recollection of what Ricks told him. Ricks managed to make it to the kitchen where she grabbed four large kitchen knives, wielding two in each hand. The unarmed Peters kept advancing toward Ricks, and she finally stabbed him, Niklasch said.

Autopsy photos of Peters show a superficial cut under his left nipple and a gaping, penetrating stab wound just left of center on his chest. The German forensic pathologist who performed Peters’ autopsy said the one big wound pierced Peters’ heart. Blood and urine alcohol tests performed on Peters showed he was severely intoxicated at the time of death, said Dr. Bianca Navarro through a translator. Peters’ level of intoxication was so severe that only those who had built up a considerable tolerance to alcohol would be able to function at such a level, Navarro testified.

Peters is one of four people in Germany connected with the Army to die from a stabbing this year.

In June, Pfc. Mario Lesesne was convicted of premeditated murder after slitting the throat of his girlfriend, Pfc. Valerie Gamboa, 19, in her Schwetzingen barracks room in January.

In July, Regina Beckwith, the 38-year-old wife of a Mannheim staff sergeant, suffered a stab wound and died at the Benjamin Franklin Village quarters she shared with her husband and two teenagers. Staff Sgt. Steven Beckwith has not been charged in the death.

And just last week, Pfc. Jeremy Price was fatally stabbed during his 21st birthday party in Hanau. His wife, Joanna Chestnut Price, has been charged with stabbing her husband.

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