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Wednesday, September 30, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Wife Guilty In Husband's Killing -- Jury In Everett Swiftly Rejects Woman's Insanity Defense

Seattle Times Snohomish County Bureau

EVERETT - After listening to three weeks of often emotionally wrenching testimony, a jury took just three hours to find Teresa Gaethe-Leonard guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of her estranged husband, Chuck Leonard.

The Snohomish County panel of 10 women and two men didn't buy defense attorney John Henry Browne's argument that the Everett woman was insane when she fatally shot Leonard in February 1997 at his Lake Goodwin home.

Jurors left the building quickly, declining to talk to reporters. "It's too traumatic (to talk about)," said one juror as she sat down briefly outside the courthouse to smoke a cigarette.

As the verdict was read before a packed courtroom yesterday, one of Chuck Leonard's friends let out a muffled cry of relief. Leonard's sister, Theresa Leonard of Oregon, began sobbing quietly.

Gaethe-Leonard sat straight, hardly moving, and dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

The swift verdict suggests jurors gave considerable weight to the testimony of Gaethe-Leonard's friend, Pam DeYoung. It was DeYoung who, about 10 days after the shooting, turned over to authorities the gun and other evidence that Gaethe-Leonard had given her. And it was DeYoung who testified she had been with Gaethe-Leonard hours before the shooting, and that Gaethe-Leonard told her she planned to kill her husband later.

DeYoung also testified Gaethe-Leonard once left her daughter with DeYoung for several hours, and later told DeYoung she had done a "dry run" of the killing that night.

Lawyers on both sides gave forceful closing arguments yesterday.

Assistant Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Michael Downes hammered away at his contention that Gaethe-Leonard had carefully orchestrated the slaying of her husband, buying an especially destructive handgun - a .45-caliber pistol - and conducting the "dry run" in a camouflage outfit.

Gaethe-Leonard, Downes said, was a calculated manipulator who lied and used people. By saying she shot Leonard, an Everett middle-school counselor, out of fear he was molesting their daughter, she even used her own child, Downes argued.

Gaethe-Leonard killed her husband so she could join her rich boyfriend in Hawaii, taking her daughter with her, said Downes.

Downes also said Gaethe-Leonard's flight to Puerto Rico in December 1997 was a well-planned effort to escape - not the desperate act of despondency her attorney claimed.

In his closings, Browne repeatedly denied the shooting was intentional or planned. If that was the case, Browne asked, why didn't Gaethe-Leonard fire more bullets as the wounded Leonard chased her up the stairs of his home?

Browne reminded the jury that John Petrich, a Redmond psychiatrist, had concluded Gaethe-Leonard was legally insane at the time of the shooting. A victim of sexual abuse as a child, she snapped when she became convinced Leonard was molesting their daughter, Petrich had told the jury. Gaethe-Leonard drove to Leonard's home to confront him and didn't appear to even remember the shooting, Petrich had said.

During his case, Browne called Gaethe-Leonard's sister to testify about the sexual abuse in their childhood.

He also called friends of Gaethe-Leonard, some of whom testified that the victim was physically and emotionally abusive to his wife.

DeYoung and another friend of Gaethe-Leonard testified that the

daughter said or did things that could be signs of abuse.

After the verdict, Downes expressed relief: "I'm happy that the case has been successfully resolved and that it's over for Chuck Leonard's family."

Browne said he was "very disappointed" and plans to appeal. He said a visit to his client in jail after the verdict bolstered his spirits.

"She seems to be taking it better than I am," he said. The most important thing to her is that her daughter is safe, Browne added.

As they left the courthouse, Leonard's family expressed gratitude to authorities and to jurors. "We think the jury did the very right thing," said Leonard's stepmother, Caroline Leonard.

Sentencing is set for Oct. 16. Gaethe-Leonard faces a minimum of 25 years in prison.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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