Wife of Olympic medal winner charged with his murder

9:04 PM, Feb 13, 2010   |    comments
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OXNARD, Calif. (AP) -- The wife of an Olympic shot put medalist gunned down in his Southern California back yard last summer was arrested Saturday in the homicide case, authorities said.

Oxnard police said in a written statement that Jane Laut, 52, was arrested during a traffic stop Saturday morning. Police said an arrest warrant had been issued earlier in the week.

Her husband David Laut, who won a bronze medal in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, was shot several times in the head on the night of Aug. 28 in their yard in Oxnard, a coastal city 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles. He was declared dead at the scene.

Jane Laut had told investigators immediately after the shooting that he went to the backyard to check out suspicious sounds, and she heard shots fired shortly after, police said. Police initially said Laut may have been killed by prowlers, but a few days later said the killing was not random.

The statement said police had been working closely with the District Attorney's Office on the case since the killing. Jane Laut was not publicly named as a suspect until Saturday.

She was being held on $3 million bail in Ventura County Jail.

Her attorney Ron Bamieh said he had hoped authorities "had realized that it was a self-defense case."

Bamieh, who was hired by Jane Laut shortly after the killing, told the Ventura County Star that she wrestled the gun from an abusive husband after he became intoxicated and said he was going to kill her after he killed their 10-year-old son and their dogs.

"She was left with no choice but to defend herself and her child with that gun," Bamieh told the newspaper. "It's not a question of who the shooter was, it's a question of the intent of the shooter."

Bamieh also works as an attorney for the Star. A phone message left at his office Saturday by The Associated Press wasn't immediately returned.

Oxnard police would release no further information on the investigation beyond the arrest.

David Laut had worked for 10 years as a track coach and athletic director at Oxnard's Hueneme High School when he was killed at age 52.

Born in Ohio and raised in Southern California, Laut won two NCAA titles at UCLA and a gold medal at the 1979 Pan American Games.

Laut was favored to win gold at the 1984 Olympics after throwing 70 feet, 10 inches at the U.S. Olympic Trials. He won the bronze instead with a mark of 68 feet, 9 3/4 inches on his final attempt at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

In 1985, he was still ranked the No. 7 shot-putter in the world and the No. 1 American. But the following year he tore tendons in both knees during an agility test to become a fireman, and failed to make the 1988 Olympic team.

He and Jane Laut had been married 29 years.

 

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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