More than seven years have passed since a 20-year-old Early man was shot to death in an alleged home invasion, but authorities are taking a fresh look at the cold case, and asking for the public's help.
On December 13, 2001, Dustin Wehde reportedly came to the door of Michael and Tracey Roberts, a couple who had befriended him months earlier. He was looking for odd jobs, but Mrs. Roberts told him to come back the next day, when her husband would be home from a business trip.
Later that day, Roberts was preparing a bath for her small daughter and heard a noise downstairs. She looked down the steps and saw two men, and rushed to secure her children. One of the men caught her and started to strangle her with a pair of her nylon stockings that had been left hanging on a bannister. She blacked out, and awoke alone in a guest bedroom.She attempted to check on her children but one of the men again grabbed her. Mrs. Roberts was able to struggle into her bedroom and reach a gun safe next to the bed, grab a loaded 9mm Beretta handgun and fire at the man who she says was pulling at her from behind. He fell to the floor. She checked on her children, then returned to find the wounded assailant in the shadows allegedly trying to get up. She says she warned the man to stay down, but he continued to move. With the ammunition in her gun spent, she had recovered a second weapon, a revolver from the gun safe, and fired more shots.
Dustin Wehde died there in a crime scenerio that was never fully explained, while the other man apparently fled and was never identified.
That's where the allegations were left years ago, with the evidence seemingly exhausted and no charges ever filed. The Roberts went on to appear on a national talk show about crime victims. They later divorced, and a shocked community slowly returned to normal.
According to Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure, who came into office after the incident, the case was never considered closed. Forensic science has advanced over the years, and the Sheriff's Office, Sac County Attorney's Office, and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation are actively re-examining evidence, the shooting scene, and leads surrounding the death.
DCI agent Terry Klooster said officials are seeking information about Wehde's relationship with the Roberts family and his activities prior to his death.
When asked if the re-examination of evidence was focused on a second attacker or the homeowner, Klooster said only that "we haven't closed any doors."
Investigators will try again to identify a second intruder, agent Klooster said.
The second man at the time was described as a tall, clean-shaven, wavy-haired man wearing a black leather coat, unknown to Mrs. Roberts and escaping on foot. In reports at the time, one of the Roberts children was quoted as saying that Wehde, whose voice the child recognized, may have called the other man "Ross" or "Boss."
Michael Roberts told the Pilot-Tribune that he had tried to mentor Wehde as part of his Christian beliefs. After the crime, Roberts had posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the other intruder.
Roberts said this week that he was not surprised by the reopening of the case, but that he had not seen the plea for information put out by the authorities. He said he could not speak about the situation for fear of disturbing the ongoing investigation, and out of concern for the three children he has with his former wife, who he said is now living in the Omaha area.
According to earlier court documents, Mrs. Roberts had not known the identity of the man she had shot at the time, and had no idea why the men had entered the home. During the struggles, they had not asked for money or mentioned robbing the family. The children were unharmed.
At the time of the shooting, a relative of Wehde described Dustin as "a super friend" to the Roberts family, and speculated that he may have walked unknowing into a crime situation and been shot in the confusion.
The Roberts have continued to be involved in legal actions since the incident. According to Iowa Bar Association records, Michael filed for divorce in 2004, and legal conflict over child support ensued with an appeal decided as recently as last October.
Dustin Wehde's estate sued Mrs. Roberts, contending she had wrongfully caused Dustin's death. The estate claimed that after shooting Wehde multiple times with the nine-millimeter handgun, Roberts "made the conscious and knowing decision to return to the bedroom and kill Dustin Wehde with a second weapon."
Tracey Richter Roberts has consistently contended that her actions were in self-defense while she was the victim of a crime. The Wehdes eventually dropped the lawsuit.
A little-known Iowa law says if an intruder is killed in a home while attacking the resdident, the attack victim's insurance company may not have to pay to defend the person from a wrongful death lawsuit. Tracey Roberts' insurance companies declined to pay to defend her in the suit, stirring additional court action between her and the companies, and an Iowa Court of Appeals suggestion for a change in that state law on that matter. Richtor Roberts' lawyer from the case says he does not believe the law has yet been changed.
In the 2006 case, the decision affirmed that "this mother was attempting to protect herself and her children..." but that the "shooting of Wehde was an intentional act for purposes of the insurance policies at issue, even if it was in self-defense."
Also in 2006, Michael Roberts filed personal charges against former wife Tracey, citing over 300 allegations he had made including attempted murder against him. Mr. Roberts claimed that he suspected that he had been secretly and systematically drugged by his wife, and that she had left him sleeping in a running van with the garage door shut, and at another time had safety-pinned him to the bed and placed a plastic Wal-Mart bag over his head to restrict his breathing, nearly suffocating him.
Local authorites refused to file charges on those allegations, and Mr. Roberts' suits were ordered dismissed in 2006.
Mr. Roberts said that he has filed suit against his ex-wife as well for allegedly intercepting electronic fax transmissions, and for alleged libel, and said court dates are scheduled for this spring and summer. A child custody modification trial is set for April, he said.
After the 9-11 attacks in 2001, the Roberts had founded Mile2, a security training and consulting firm that Michael continued to lead as president after the divorce. The company now lists locations in Aurelia as well as in Florida, the UK and Malaysia and claims to be the world's largest specialty IT security training organization, with clients including U.S. military and intelligence agencies as well as those of U.S. allies. Michael Roberts said that he was forced to sell the company, and has since started Rexxfield, a company offering protection from online libel, character defamation and internet stalking.