Why she murdered her Olympian husband

High school sweethearts. Photo / Laut Family/48 Hours
High school sweethearts. Photo / Laut Family/48 Hours

He was the sports star who would go on to become an Olympian, she was the homecoming queen. They were high school sweethearts with the seemingly perfect, nearly 30-year-long marriage.

But on August 28, 2009, Dave Laut was found dead in the backyard of his home in Ventura, California home. Nearly seven years later, his wife Jane would be found guilty of his murder.

Now two months after her conviction, Jane Laut has given her first television interview to CBS' 48 Hours, detailing the abuse she said she suffered at her husband's hands - and why she had to kill him that night.

When Jane called 911 on the night of her 52-year-old husband's murder, she told the dispatcher that shots had been fired.

There had been a noise coming from the backyard, she first told detectives, and her husband had gone outside to check on it when he was shot by intruders.

That story wouldn't last the night. Detectives found the murder weapon, Dave's own .22 caliber revolver, hidden in the couple's grandfather clock.

But Jane had already changed her story. She killed her husband, she told detectives, and she did it in self-defense.

And so she began to tear down the portrait of a golden couple with the perfect marriage that was the envy of their family and friends.

Rebecca Laut, Dave's sister-in-law, said the Olympian held up his wife on a pedestal.

"I mean, if you knew Dave and the kind of person he was and the way he beamed when he talked about Jane," she told CBS' Erin Moriarty. "I mean, he just - he loved her."

But Jane said behind closed doors it was a different story, a bad temper that would later escalate into abuse that ranged from verbal to physical and sexual.

Dave and Jane Laut. Photo / AP
Dave and Jane Laut. Photo / AP

The first time Dave hit her was shortly after they got married, Jane said, when she forgot to buy something to put in his bags for an Olympic training session.

"It was like bathroom supplies," she said. "And...and he hit me. I had a black eye and my lip was split. And he told me that if anybody asks, tell 'em some n***** did it."

But Dave's abuse was mostly verbal, she said, calling her names that included "stupid, idiot, fat, b****, n*****, Jew and c***".

There had been good memories in the marriage, as well as setbacks. Dave's dreams of Olympic gold after winning bronze for shot put in the 1984 Los Angeles games were crushed when he tore tendons in both of his knees while training for 1988.

Jane then found out that she couldn't get pregnant. But the couple soon adopted a little boy from South Korea that they named Michael, and their first five years together as a family was the happiest Jane said the couple had ever been.

And then, she said, "it just started going downhill... and it got worse and worse every year."

Jane stayed because she thought it would get better. But on August 27, 2009, Jane said Dave's abuse reached a boiling point.

It all started, Jane said, when she had forgotten to ask Dave how his day had been while she had been away with Michael at the beach.

"That just started it," she said. "That we didn't ask him. We didn't respect him."

Dave Laut went from high school athlete to Olympian. Photo / Getty
Dave Laut went from high school athlete to Olympian. Photo / Getty

Jane crawled into bed with Michael, something she said she had been doing for the last two years because her son, now 10 years old, was so afraid of his father.

"Dave would stay up in the living room... and he'd been drinking all night. And he's just raging at whatever. It's the TV... it's an email," she recalled.

Jane said Dave's rages came every night, and that particular summer night was no different. Except that this time when she went out into the hallway to try and calm him down, there was a gun in his hand.

Jane said she was only trying to get Dave out of the house, away from Michael's room, and at one point he pushed her up against the door jamb

"[He] was yelling in my face, telling me how much he's sick of this and that he was gonna blow Michael's f****** little head off."

"We went onto the side of the house," she said. "And we stumbled. I don't know if we were falling or just, like, moving. But I felt one gunshot go off, and then we did fall. And I was, like, straddling him and I honestly don't remember after that."

Jane said at first she didn't realize her husband was dead. "I remember seeing his socks.I just thought for sure he's gonna jump up and run after me."

Dave had been shot six times.

Oxnard Homicide Det Mike Young said Dave was first hit by a shot fired from a distance, striking him in the head - above his left ear.

Jane Laut appearing in court. Photo / AP
Jane Laut appearing in court. Photo / AP

The next two shots were contact wounds, meaning they had to be fired when the gun was in direct contact with the body part, on the side of his face.

There was another in the back of his shoulder but it was the sixth shot that was fatal - right to the back of the head.

Det Young said that because the gun had to be manually cocked before each shot, it was clear the murder was premeditated and that Jane knew exactly what she was doing.

But Jane and her attorney, Ron Bamieh, said that night she knew only one of them would be getting out alive.

"There's no dispute that she wanted him dead that night," Bamieh told Moriarty. "It was gonna be him or her."

Jane said she knew what she had to do to protect her son. "I killed my husband. But Michael's alive," she said. "I think if it didn't happen, we both would be dead."

It's a claim Dave's family finds hard to believe.

Dave's brother Don and his wife Rebecca were adamant that they had never witnessed or heard of any abuse.

"She told me a lot about their relationship, very personal things about their relationship," Rebecca told Moriarty. "So I know that if that was happening, she would have said something to me."

But, apparently, Jane did.

48 Hours uncovered a phone call between Rebecca and Det Young, occurring just five days after her brother-in-law was killed, in which she revealed Dave was "very verbally abusive" toward Jane and his son.

"There were so many, so many, so many instances," she told Young. "I can't even think right now."

Jane, who was arrested six months after Dave's death, turned down a plea deal from the District Attorney's office that would require her to spend six years in jail.

"I felt like if I took the plea nobody would know what really happened. It would be like accepting that they said there was no abuse with Michael or me."

The case went to trial after Jane spent six years out on bond. The prosecution would argue that she feared a contentious divorce and wanted $300,000 worth of Dave's life insurance.

Jane and Dave had been deeply in debt at the time of his death, and his family claimed Dave was headed on his way out after Jane allegedly made a mess of their finances.

"I honestly think that he was fixing to leave," Rebecca said. "I truly believe he was done with the whole financial thing."

Meanwhile, Michael - now 17 - stood by his mother's side and testified on her behalf.

He described Dave's temper and said his father would often call him names. But he could not recall if Dave ever became physically violent.

On March, 31, 2016, nearly seven years her husband's death, Jane was found guilty of murder.

She now faces a mandatory sentence of 50 years to life and will likely die in prison.

Jane will be formally sentenced in June.

- Daily Mail

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