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Trial begins for Cottonwood Heights man accused of killing wife
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There is no question who killed Touch Choun at her Cottonwood Heights home in 2009; no doubt over who stabbed her 19 times.

"This is Dennis Lambdin," defense attorney Neal Hamilton told the court as the 64-year-old defendant sat just feet away. "This is the man who brutally killed his wife."

Lambdin is charged in 3rd District Court with murder in the death of his wife. And as the defense and prosecution addressed 10 jurors during opening statements Tuesday, no one argued that Lambdin didn't do it. Instead, the defense acknowledged just the opposite.

"This is no whodunit. At the end of this trial, you will find [Lambdin] guilty of killing his wife," Hamilton told the jury. "What I need you to consider is, did he snap? Why did he snap? What was he going through that may have caused him to snap?"

The crux of Lambdin's defense centers around his supposed experiences and emotions at the time.

Choun, 41, they said, was an alcoholic, a gambler, an adulterer. She was having an affair and had gotten pregnant before asking Lambdin for a divorce.

If defense attorneys can convince the jury that Lambdin lost control and killed Choun due to extreme emotional stress, he may escape a first-degree felony murder conviction and a life sentence, and be convicted instead of the lesser offense of second-degree felony manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Meanwhile, prosecutors will try to paint Lambdin as a scorned and calculating husband who wanted revenge.

"He didn't stab her one time or two times or even three, four or five times," said prosecutor Anna Rossi. "He stabbed her 19 times. ... And when he saw that she was still moving, he hit her three times in the head with a hard ceramic ball until she stopped."

Witnesses called to the stand Tuesday discussed the day Choun was killed, Aug. 17, 2009.

Cottonwood Heights police Officer Thom Daugherty was the first to testify. He was also the first on scene.

He recalled knocking on the door, calling in to Lambdin, asking him: "Did you do something stupid?"

"I've done something horrible," Lambdin replied.

Daugherty said he recognized Lambdin.

He had been to duplex at 2192 E. Fort Union Blvd. about a month before on a welfare call after one of Lambdin's coworkers worried he may have tried to harm himself when he didn't turn up for work. It was a false alarm.

But when officers forced their way into the home on Aug. 17, Daugherty said, they found a woman face down in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Lambdin was bleeding from his hands and a bloody knife sat beside the sink. Upstairs, a rope hung in the hallway. Police were advised Lambdin meant to kill himself.

"His emotions would range from excited and telling us what he did to, just, 'Oh my gosh, what did I do?' " said Cottonwood Heights police Officer Brian Eschtruth.

All who encountered Lambdin that day said he told them what he had done.

"When we were riding in the ambulance, he became very agitated," paramedic Keith Plagemann told the court. "He said, [she] got what she deserved. He said it multiple times."

The case is scheduled to continue Wednesday before Judge Vernice Trease. The case is expected to go to the jury, comprised of six men and four women, by next week.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: marissa_jae

Cottonwood Heights • He killed her because of extreme emotional stress, defense tells jury.
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