"She was pretty shocked that I called," he says. "We talked a lot. She was definitely expressing remorse. She hated herself, and she didn't understand why I was calling, why I was supporting her. But I didn't want a divorce. I know it sounds crazy, but we talked about staying together and working through it."

A torrent of phone calls and letters followed. Someone had to read Spitz her letters, which were festooned with smiley faces and hearts. "I have two poems that I've written over the past year just for myself, to purge thoughts or emotions," reads one. "One is really dark & personal & it makes me a bit scared of showing you it...you're my best friend & husband, but it's hard for me to reveal that sickness to you of all people. I want to take care of you and protect you from any more horrors.

"Babe, thank you for still believing in me and supporting me. I'm trying to do right and hang on."

Peter Spitz and Teresa Dickey posed on the occasion of their first date, in 1998.
Anthony Camera
Peter Spitz and Teresa Dickey posed on the occasion of their first date, in 1998.
Teresa Spitz seemed to adore Peter's mother, Mariko Shida, shown here with grandson Benjamin.
Anthony Camera
Teresa Spitz seemed to adore Peter's mother, Mariko Shida, shown here with grandson Benjamin.

Details

VIDEO: In his own words, Peter Spitz describes being shot by his wife in his sleep, and waking up in the hospital when the police gave him the news. Watch video.




Spitz offered to assist in her defense any way he could. His willingness to help amazed her attorneys and appalled some friends and relatives. "I always supported Pete, but I could never understand his unquestioning devotion to her after the shooting," says his friend John Hunter.

People told him he was much too forgiving. Spitz disagreed.

"I'm not a forgiving guy," he says. "But you don't have to forgive somebody for being ill. If she'd been driving a car and had a brain aneurysm, and my mother had been killed and I had been injured, would I have to forgive her for that?"

The decision had its price. Lee was still in the care of the Reynoldses, who had obtained a court-appointed guardianship while Spitz was recovering from his injuries. ("I was told he either goes into foster care or I give them guardianship," he says.) As a defense witness, Spitz could have little contact with his son, since the guardians were listed as witnesses for the prosecution. And his defiance of the no-contact order with Teresa led to heated words with the prosecutors, one of whom threatened to charge him as an accessory after the fact. Spitz began to feel as if he and Teresa were "the two most hated people in Colorado."

"Peter Spitz is a strong cup of coffee," Franks says now. "He never had any reluctance in expressing how he felt. I'm fine with that. At heart, this is a domestic-violence case. That he testified on her behalf isn't particularly surprising, if you understand the domestic-violence dynamic."

At trial, the defense presented witnesses who testified about Teresa's troubled childhood, including the violent scene of her stepfather's death. But even Miller, the defense's own expert, was skeptical of her claim to have a direct memory of the event, as well as the suggestion that such an early shock could trigger some form of post-traumatic stress. While the defense argued for a history of depression and emotional and financial pressures leading to a psychotic break, the prosecution tried to present a portrait of a rational, calculating killer whose alleged personality defects — narcissism, sociopathy, a distinct lack of sympathy for her victims — were untreatable.

But that portrait was undercut by her husband when he took the stand. Spitz wasn't allowed to plead directly for mercy, but his tearful, loving account of his life with Teresa prior to the shooting certainly didn't hurt her cause. What else but insanity could have prompted the defendant to destroy it all?

The jury deliberated for ten hours and came back with the verdict Spitz had hoped for: not guilty by reason of insanity. Instead of prison, Teresa would be sent to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP), until such time as she was considered no longer a danger to the public.

Jury foreman Robert Graf says that Spitz's testimony was one factor among many that led to the verdict. "It was certainly unusual," he says. "He struck me as a stand-up guy. It was a difficult decision, but I really believe we got it right."

As in all murder trials, there was plenty the jury didn't know about — awkward and painful details that Spitz himself only learned over time.

During the months she spent before trial at the Arapahoe County jail, Spitz says, his wife was romantically involved with two other female inmates. She later admitted both relationships to him. One of the women even stayed with him briefly after being released, before he realized that Teresa's "friend" was something more than that — and prone to helping herself to other people's money and property.

The "friend" then moved in with Spitz's next-door neighbors for a few months, until they, too, asked her to leave. The neighbors, Tonya and Chris Martinez, kept some of the woman's property for back rent. Among the items were drawings and letters from Teresa, which Tonya Martinez read with increasing alarm.

One letter gave a detailed account of the night of the shooting. Years later, Martinez still remembers it vividly. "It was like reading a novel," she says. "There was a lot of planning. I don't think she intentionally meant to murder Peter's mom. In the letter, she showed a lot of affection toward her. But she said, 'The bitch walked out at the wrong time.'

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