Defense attorney: McDowell guilty of killing his wife
MEEKER – The defense attorney for Chuck McDowell, who is accused of murdering his wife at the Rite Aid store in Glenwood Springs, told a jury Wednesday that McDowell alone is responsible for the death of his wife.
But Public Defender Greg Greer argued that prosecutors won’t be able to prove McDowell guilty of first-degree murder. He suggested that the jury instead find McDowell guilty of the lesser charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Greer’s admission that his client committed the Sept. 23, 1998, killing of Ruth Ann McDowell as she closed the Rite-Aid store that evening came during opening arguments in McDowell’s murder trial.
“You need to know that Chuck McDowell is responsible for the death of Ruth Ann McDowell, and he must bear the consequences of that act, here and beyond here,” Greer told the jury.
“So, what are we doing here? Here is where we determine the governmental reaction to that conduct. Beyond here, there is no escape from the moral consequences for Chuck McDowell,” Greer said.
He asked the jury to listen closely to the evidence, noting in particular the gun used in the killing, a relationship between Ruth Ann McDowell and another man, and the ways that McDowell’s mind works.
Earlier, Deputy District Attorney Robert Weiner began the trial with a dramatic presentation for the prosecution’s opening argument.
“September 23rd, 1998. Ruth Ann McDowell was sitting at her desk at work,” Weiner said. As he spoke, he flipped over in his hands a color portrait of the 51-year-old New Castle woman, showing her smiling face to the jury.
“She was finishing her work and looking forward to going home, to seeing her husband, and her children who lived across the street. She didn’t know her husband was lurking in a loft in the store with plans to murder her,” he said.
Weiner described McDowell’s movements through the store and the shooting. He told how McDowell stepped over his wife’s body to take cash and checks from a drawer and then pulled her keys from a pocket of her jacket so he could let himself out of the closed store.
Only then, after describing the killing, did Weiner introduce himself to the jury.
Weiner went on to tell the story investigators have pieced together.
He described the New Castle couple’s troubled marriage, a second marriage for both of them, and accused McDowell of killing his wife “because a divorce would be too difficult, because he didn’t want to lose that nest egg he’d built up.”
Weiner referred to statements McDowell made about his feelings for his wife. “He said he didn’t love her, that he stayed because it was a convenience,” Weiner said.
After the couple had a huge fight on the 4th of July, 1998, their relatives thought Chuck would leave Ruth Ann. But he told Ruth Ann’s daughter-in-law, “I’m going to leave on my own terms,” Weiner said.
He offered more details from the night in question, tracking McDowell’s alleged movements as he drove to Glenwood Springs, slipped into the Rite-Aid store and hid in a loft until well after closing time, when Ruth Ann was alone in the store reconciling the day’s receipts.
After the shooting and robbery, Weiner alleged, McDowell drove back to their New Castle home to put away the revolver, stow his boots, put his clothes in the wash and hide the bag of cash in a crawl space under the house.
Then McDowell drove back to Glenwood Springs, arriving at the scene after the police and ambulance crews.
“Then the show begins. He has to act the concerned husband,” Weiner said. Raising his voice in anger, Weiner told the jury that McDowell hugged his wife’s children and grandchildren, “knowing all along that he had shot her.”
“This is a man with a wicked plan, and there is no question you will find him guilty,” he added.
McDowell’s trial continues today in Meeker.
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