Parties have made their final arguments in the murder trial of Todd Pate, and the jury has now gone into deliberation.
Pate is accused of the first-degree murder of his wife, Melanie, in September 2013 while they were going through a divorce. After the murder, Pate called 9-1-1 and admitted to the killing. When law enforcement arrived, they found Mrs. Pate’s body in their swimming pool with her throat cut. Three bloody knives were also found at the scene.
His first trial in 2016 ended in a hung jury when one of the jurors expressed doubts that the killing could be qualified as first-degree.
On Monday, prosecution rested its case and yesterday, defense started theirs, ending on Wednesday morning. Pate’s defense has not disputed that he killed his wife, nor has Pate. Instead, the defense has made the argument that the killing was committed in a heat of passion. A previously plea of insanity was made by the defense, but later withdrawn.
On the stand, Pate said that he’d been suffering from severe depression over the divorce, especially at the thought of losing custody of his son, Karter, who was 12 at the time. This also led him to contemplate suicide and look up various means to do so painlessly.
The previous stillborn death of the couple’s first son, Konnor, was also heavily brought up in the trial, and defense says trauma from this event played into Pate’s actions, as he was afraid of losing his son again.
Pate said during his testimony that he lost control when he confronted his wife about her wanting nearly full custody over Karter, at which point, she shoved him and said, “Oh well.”
“You do not say that to somebody who’s lost a baby,” Pate said. “When I read ‘90/10’ [custody split], memories of losing my son overwhelmed me.’”
Pate and his attorney, Eric Hamilton, both said that he had blacked out, coming to in the pool.
“The question really is ‘what was going through his mind?’” Hamilton said in the closing arguments.
“It’s very clear that on Sep. 2, that Todd was not himself,” he added.
However, the prosecution, led by Executive Assistant District Attorney Phil Esbenshade, argued that Pate’s actions were deliberate, and that he killed his wife to stop the divorce. He also cited apparent inconsistencies in his memory gaps.
“This wasn’t some crime of passion, this wasn’t some snap, this wasn’t some depression-induced state,” Esbenshade said, going on to add, “Todd Pate acted with premeditation and deliberation. Todd Pate acted to cause death.”
Esbenshade further argued in his closing statement that his use of three different weapons — one of them a saw — were consistent not with someone lashing out in anger, but of someone acting with intent. His dragging of Melanie’s body from the kitchen to the backyard pool was also cited as a sign of intent.
“This man used three knives to murder his wife in her own kitchen,” Esbenshade said. “This was premeditated.”
Deliberations for the jury started at around 3:30 p.m., but were sent home by visiting Judge Edward Lacey at 4:30 p.m. They were expected to resume on Thursday morning.
Jury enters deliberation in Pate murder trial