Wife details abuse leading to fatal stabbing
October 18, 2007
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Spc. Latasha Ricks said she wanted to make her marriage work. That’s why she stayed with her abusive, alcoholic husband, Levin Peters.
“I wanted my daughters to have a father,” Ricks testified Wednesday during her court-martial. “That’s all I wanted. I wanted a family.”
Ricks delivered a fatal stab wound to Peters’ heart in the early hours of April 2. Ricks, of the 147th Postal Company, faces one charge of unpremeditated murder and, if convicted, could spend the rest of her life in prison without the chance of parole.
Ricks was the first witness to take the stand Wednesday on the second day of her court-martial. Proceedings ended Wednesday after both prosecution and defense attorneys gave their closing statements. An eight-member jury will begin deliberations Thursday morning.
Ricks’ defense team claims she did not intend to kill her husband but did so because she felt her life was in danger. The couple’s relationship was marked by a history of abuse, according to her defense. The defense attorney, Maj. Sean Wilson, pointed out that after Ricks was arrested, she cooperated with German and U.S. authorities and never asked for an attorney or invoked her right to remain silent.
“[Ricks] had absolutely nothing to hide,” Wilson said. “She gave all the details to the authorities about what happened that evening. She had no reason to lie.”
Ricks was acting intentionally and not in self-defense when she stabbed her husband, said Capt. Jeffrey Rohrbach. There was no reason to believe that Peters was going to kill Ricks that night because he was unarmed and not threatening her, Rohrbach said.
“[Ricks] wasn’t scared,” Rohrbach said. “She was sick of Levin. She wanted to end it, so she did.”
During her testimony, Ricks described a history of abuse in her five-year marriage to Peters. The abuse started eight months after the couple met in the late 1990s, she said. Peters cut the phone line when she was on the phone. He also would lock her in the house and cut off the electricity, she testified.
As the years went by, the level of violence increased, according to testimony. Peters burned Ricks and one of their two daughters with a cigarette. He choked Ricks to the point of near blackout, but she was saved by Peters’ mom, whom Peters then bit, Ricks said. One Thanksgiving, he pulled two knives on her, she testified.
His violence also was directed at others, according to testimony. One day in the States, two muscular men wanted to beat him up, so Peters grabbed a chain saw from Ricks’ mother’s basement, started it and sat on the porch so the men could see him, Ricks’ mother testified.
In the weeks before Ricks stabbed her husband to death in their Sulzbachtal apartment near Kaiserslautern, Peters had a few violent outbursts that caused her to take her kids and flee to a friend’s house, she testified. He also threatened to kill Ricks, she testified.
Following an argument, Ricks stabbed him with a large kitchen knife, piercing his heart, according to earlier testimony. At the time, Ricks was holding four knives with two in each hand, she testified.
The only other wound to Peters’ chest was a superficial scratchlike cut.
If Ricks had two knives in each hand when she dealt the fatal blow, it would be expected that two wounds — about one centimeter apart — would have been present on Peters’ chest, said Dr. Roman Bux, a German forensic pathologist. However, the superficial cut was more than one centimeter away from the fatal wound.
“[Ricks] intended to stab [Peters],” Rohrbach said. “This is not self-defense.”