Iowa Attorney General weighs in
Just five days before it was to go to trial, a wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by the family of Dustin Wehde against the woman who pulled the trigger to kill him has been dropped.
The suit against Tracey Roberts was dismissed with prejudice March 3 in Sac County District Court.
Dismissal with prejudice bars the plaintiff from bringing an action on the same claim again - a clear victory for Roberts.
The action comes on the heels of late efforts to involve to law enforcement experts as witnesses at the trial.
The court documents place potential damages in the suit at nearly $1 million, including a lifetime of lost wages. There was no indication of any out-of-court settlement. The Wehde attorney could not be reached.
Roberts shot Wehde after she was allegedly attacked by the young man and an unknown accomplice when they invaded her home at Early on Dec. 13, 2001.
Wehde's estate filed suit against Roberts in 2003, claiming that she continued to shoot Wehde after he was no longer a threat to her.
Wehde and her husband Michael had appeared on a national talk show to tell the story of how she was allegedly choked with pantyhose, but was able to defend herself as a crime victim.
The Roberts are now engaged in a bitter divorce case. Tracy now resides in Rembrandt.
The lawsuit states that in the dark Roberts found a gun safe and "fumbled with the combination, all while allegedly being tugged by her ponytail by one of the assailants."
The complaint states that Roberts opened the gun safe door and grabbed a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and shot Dustin Wehde multiple times, emptying an 11-shot clip. As "Dustin Wehde was still alive and breathing after suffering the initial gunshot wounds," Roberts then got a revolver from the safe and shot Wehde three or four times in the back of the head, according to the complaint.
Sac County officials say the investigation remains open, but that they have no new evidence to act upon.
Count I of the civil lawsuit alleges assault and battery while Count II alleges wrongful death. Other papers filed at the Sac County Clerk of Courts office claim damages of $200,000 for assault and battery and punitive damages, $5,000 for funeral expenses, and $748,800 for lost potential earnings for Wehde.
J. Barton Goplerud is the attorney of record for the Wehde estate. He signed papers requesting dismissal of his clients' suit. Scott Bandstra is recorded as Roberts' attorney. Both attorneys practice in Des Moines.
In two late-breaking motions in the case, Goplerud had filed a motion to suppress Roberts' expert witness John C. Cayton, currently under contract with the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department and who has a long resume of criminal investigation work up to the federal level and who has a Top Secret clearance with the U.S. military. Cayton was the expert who had Jesse James' body exhumed and examined it to determine the cause of death.
Cayton was apparently willing to testify on Roberts' behalf that "based on his training, experience, reviewing the above-mentioned documentation reviewing the residence where the shooting occurred and the location and angle of the bullet homes in Dustin Wehde's clothing, Mr. Cayton can testify based upon a reasonable degree of certainty that Dustin Wehde was attacking Tracey Roberts when she shot Dustin Wehde and Tracey Roberts' actions were consistent with a person protecting herself and her children from the attackers."
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller March 1 filed a motion to quash the testimony of DCI Special Agent Dan Moser whom Goplerud had subpoenaed in the civil trial since it could hamper the ongoing criminal investigation. The same day Goplerud served notices to the parties involved that he was moving for the civil case to be dismissed with prejudice.
The motion to quash Moser's testimony included the following:
"Agent Moser, in his capacity as a DCI agent, was involved in investigating the death of Dustin Wehde," the motion states. "During the course of the investigation, Agent Moser interviewed witnesses and was involved in other activities of an investigative nature. The investigation into the death of Dustin Wehde remains open.
"In the past, certain information from DCI files has been provided to the parties to this action. Agent Moser would be able to provide, at least to a limited extent, some testimony related to those previously disclosed materials. Additionally, Agent Moser could provide foundational testimony relative to materials previously provided. However, Agent Moser should not be compelled to provide any testimony that would be privileged, confidential and/or could jeopardize any investigation relating to this matter.
"The subpoena issued to Agent Moser should be quashed, or at the very least, a protective order entered prohibiting the parties from inquiring into areas that are privileged, confidential, or could be deemed to interfere with any future investigation into this matter," it was stated.