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Cottonwood Heights man says emotional stress led to him killing wife

Published January 9, 2013 6:51 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

For nine years, Dennis Lambdin did everything in his power to prevent his wife from suffering.

The day he stabbed her to death, Lambdin told police, it was no different.

"She was bleeding, but she was still moving, I knew she was hurting," he said during an interview with Cottonwood Heights police officers on Aug. 17, 2009. "So, I go over and get [a ceramic ball] and smash her in the back of the head three times. I didn't want her to suffer."

Lambdin's hour-and-a-half-long confession, which was played before a jury Wednesday at 3rd District court, will serve as the defense's primary example of Lambdin's emotional state the day he allegedly killed Touch Choun, 41.

Defense attorneys hope it will be enough to convince the jury that Lambdin lost control and killed Choun due to extreme emotional stress — the result of Choun's alleged alcoholism, gambling, adultery and verbal abuse.

Choun supposedly started drinking after her first husband left and her mother died, leaving her alone with four children. When she lost custody, Lambdin said, he fought to help her get her kids back; when she drank herself sick, he would take her to the hospital; when she came back from spending days with other men, he forgave her.

Throughout the recording, Lambdin went from tired and demure to agitated and angry. He hit his head against the wall and table and threw himself to the floor. Detectives handed him tissues as he cried, loud, chest-rattling sobs.

"I'm guilty. I'm guilty because I did it, but I didn't want to do it," he said. "I loved her so much. I don't know why she hated me."

Defense attorneys did not call a single witness Wednesday before resting their case.

Lambdin is charged with first-degree felony murder. But if his attorneys succeed, he could instead be convicted of second-degree felony manslaughter. Instead of life in prison, he would face a maximum of 15 years.

Cottonwood Heights Sgt. Dan Bartlett described Lambdin's demeanor during the interview as "manic."

Cackling at his own jokes one minute and weeping over his dead wife the next, Lambdin told Bartlett about his marriage, Choun's struggles and how he killed her that morning.

He said Choun had a drinking problem, that she would go on benders and disappear for days. When he confronted her about an affair in the months before her death, she told him she was four months pregnant with another man's child.

"If I wanted to hurt her, I would have done it a long time ago," he said. "I had lots of reasons to."

Lambdin told Bartlett about his desire to kill himself, about the emptiness he felt, the rope he strung up in the hallway and the wine he gulped down for courage. He said he would have committed suicide that morning had he not been interrupted by the police knocking at his door.

"This is not where I wanted to be," he said. "I just wanted to go away peacefully. Now I'm arrested, insulted. I've lost everything."

The prosecution and defense will deliver their closing arguments Thursday afternoon before Judge Vernice Trease. The case will be left to the jury, comprised of four women and six men, by the end of the week.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: marissa_jae