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Killer tries for lighter sentence

Every night, the booze flowed and heated arguments followed at Charlene Lynn and John William Todd Jr.'s Darien Drive house, John Todd testified Wednesday.

Though he'd only lived with Lynn for six months, John Todd, 64, said in a hearing in Fayette Circuit Court Wednesday that Lynn Todd, 48, would verbally abuse him every night after she started drinking.

John Todd said his wife had several choice subjects: the gun she'd shoot him with if he ever hit her; the limp he walked with; his broken promise of 10 more years of work before retirement; and the younger men she'd been intimate with and how he compared unfavorably to them.

"When Lynn drank, she was nasty," John Todd said. "She cussed like a sailor and had a propensity for violence."

Todd's testimony was part of a day-long hearing in which his defense attorneys tried to portray him as a victim of domestic violence. But the judge overruled his motion.

Todd pleaded guilty in September to first-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting his wife several times in the basement of their home in 2007. John Todd agreed to a 10-year sentence, and he'll be eligible for parole after serving 8½ years.

Under Kentucky law, John Todd could have been eligible for parole substantially sooner — in his case, 6½ years earlier — had he proved the slaying was related to domestic violence.

But Todd's erratic behavior after the shooting undercuts his credibility, Judge Kimberly Bunnell said.

Investigators said Todd drove to Richmond with plans to kill his brother, Jim Todd, editor of the Richmond Register newspaper. And he flatly told his daughter, Faron Todd, that he did not shoot Lynn in self-defense.

"Not only do I believe there is not a preponderance of evidence" to show John Todd was a victim of domestic violence, Bunnell said, "I believe there is no evidence. It is so easy for him to come in now and say that he was" a victim.

Testimony by Todd, relatives and police Wednesday provided new details in the headline-grabbing case.

John Todd turned himself in to authorities on March 7, 2007, after a manhunt that lasted several hours.

Earlier in the day, police roped off Darien Drive and Traveller Road, and police SWAT team members entered the home at 2:30 p.m. to find Lynn Todd dead in a pool of blood in the basement.

John Todd talked to relatives by cell phone throughout the day, but he refused to speak with police negotiators, according to testimony.

The day of the shooting, John Todd said he and his wife got into a heated argument before she got home from work.

John Todd, a home remodeling contractor, was angry that his wife was planning to accept a job that did not provide health insurance for both of them.

The argument continued into the evening in their bedroom. Lynn Todd grabbed her gun, which she kept beneath their mattress, and placed it atop the bed, John Todd said.

She then blocked the door and asked John Todd to fight her, he said. John Todd said he pushed her out of the way and went into the basement with his gun, which he also kept underneath the mattress.

Later, Lynn Todd walked down into the basement. John Todd said she pointed her gun at him and he lunged for it. When he could not take it from her, John Todd said, he thought he was going to die. He said he then shot her four times.

The shooting occurred late on the night of March 6, 2007. John Todd said he drank bourbon and took OxyContin pain pills until morning.

Prosecutors accused John Todd of fabricating the story. And they pointed to contradictory statements that he made to relatives.

One occurred in a phone call to his daughter. Unbeknownst to John Todd, a police detective was in the room with Faron Todd, listening to their conversation.

The daughter, who was trying convince Todd to turn himself in, urged him to claim it was self-defense. You can beat this, she told him.

He told her it was not self-defense. He said he shot her because she was a "bitch," an officer testified.

Lynn Todd's supervisor testified that John Todd regularly called her at work to argue. The supervisor said Lynn Todd also told her that John Todd had pushed her against a wall once.

"Lynn Todd was the victim of domestic violence, not the defendant," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kathy Phillips said.

Defense attorneys warned Bunnell that she'd be setting a dangerous example by making it nearly impossible for spouses to prove they're domestic violence victims. Attorney Jerry Wright said victims rarely call police and often don't tell anyone of their abuse.

That makes it tougher for them to corroborate abuse, he said.

"A lot of it is secret," Wright said. "A lot of it is behind closed doors. And a lot of it does not come out until something like this happens."

Todd will be sentenced at a later date.