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Utah County man who shot wife convicted of first-degree murder

Published August 23, 2014 12:00 pm

Courts • Utah County man convicted in killing his wife will be sentenced Oct. 7.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • There's no question that on March 23 of last year, Scott fired his gun three times and killed his wife.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys told a jury he did. Scott himself took the witness stand during his week-long trial and detailed how he "snapped" and shot 45-year-old Teresa Scott.

The question before a 4th District jury: Was Tracy Scott under "extreme emotional distress?"

The six-man, two-woman jury wrestled with the question for nearly eights of deliberation before finding Scott, 48, guilty of first-degree felony murder.

About halfway through their Friday deliberations, the jury had send a message to the judge saying they could not reach a verdict. But the judge ordered that they continue to deliberate, and a few hours later, they came back with the unanimous guilty verdict.

Scott faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 7.

Defense attorney Richard Gale had asked the jury instead to find Scott guilty of second-degree felony manslaughter, arguing that his client was not a cold-blooded killer and fired his gun as a result of "extreme emotional distress."

"I'm sure he's disappointed," Gale said of his client. "But he knew it [a murder conviction] was a possibility."

Gale

Gale had told the jury: "Cold-blood [describes] someone who is not feeling any emotion. You heard that there was so much emotion felt in this."

But Deputy Utah County Attorney David Sturgill said Friday during his closing argument that the husband killed his wife "in cold blood." He urged the jury to convict the man of murder.

"Is there any dispute that it was Mr. Scott who shot and killed his wife, Teresa?" Sturgill asked the jury. "There's no question. He's told you himself that he was the one who murdered his wife."

Sturgill said Friday evening that he was "absolutely thrilled" with the verdict.

Gale told the jury Friday that years of fighting, compounded with the fear that his wife had a gun and may harm him, caused Tracy Scott's emotional distress.

"Tracy did something stupid, he regrets it," Gale added. "We're not telling you it's OK. We're not asking you to find him not guilty. What we're asking you to do is, because he did it in an emotional state, it's not quite as serious."

But Sturgill discounted Tracy Scott's story that he was in fear of his wife having a gun, saying it was "self-serving" and "too incredible to believe."

Sturgill pointed to the 911 call Scott placed after the shooting, where the man calmly told the dispatcher that he had been fighting with his wife for two weeks, and that she had been complaining about him while on the phone with her mother just before the shooting.

"There's no mention of fear for his life," Sturgill argued. "The reason he didn't mention those things — the gun or the fear for his life — is that it didn't happen."

For the third time during trial, Sturgill played Tracy Scott's calm-voiced call to 911 to report the fatal shooting.

"Does that sound like a man who has any emotion?" Sturgill asked. "Does that sound like a man under extreme emotional distress?"

Earlier this week, witnesses — including the defendant and his two teenage sons — testified that the Scott had a rocky and tumultuous marriage that was often punctuated by fights — mostly verbal, but sometimes physical.

The couple's two teenage sons testified Thursday that they both feared their mother was dead when they heard from a neighbor there had been a shooting.

And both said they were angry at their father, whom they had not seen since the shooting.

Thayne Scott, 18, described an argument his parents had last year over how to spend their tax returns. Tracy Scott wanted to buy a new weapon, but Teresa Scott wanted to spend it on the roof.

The son said during cross-examination by defense attorney Gale that the fighting on the day his mother died was more contentious than normal.

Tyson Scott, 14, testified that his dad tried to hit his mom with their Dodge Durango a few years ago.

On Wednesday, Tracy Scott testified how he stood in front of his wife and shot her.

"I snapped," Scott testified. "I just seen red. I went storming in [to the bedroom], she's laying on the bed, and she's got her cellphone [camera] pointed at me."

Scott, who heaved and sobbed through his testimony, told the jury that he reached down, grabbed a gun off the floor, cocked it and fired.

Describing his 19-year marriage, Tracy Scott said: "We were two peas in a pod. ... We loved each other."

But Scott also said constant fights and bickering marred the relationship.

"It was bad," he said of their fights in the days before his wife's death. "It was get in your face, yell, scream at each other. Spit flying. It was a lot, lot worse [than it had ever been]."

Tracy Scott testified that the day before the shooting he became fearful after he found a gun safe open in their home and a weapon missing.

On March 23, the gun was missing from the safe again, Tracy Scott testified. He said he decided to confront his wife about it.

When he walked into the bedroom, he said he saw his wife pointing her camera phone at him — likely trying to take a video or picture. It was something they did during domestic disputes as a way to show friends or family that the other partner was at fault for the fights, he said.

That's when he shot and killed her, Tracy Scott testified.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller