ELKADER, Iowa — The tense relationship between a former Delaware County woman and her husband was at the center of arguments as to why she shot him more than 10 years ago.
Prosecutors argue that Revette A. Sauser, 52, killed her husband in 2011 in their home out of jealousy, while her defense argues that she sought to defend herself when she feared Terry Sauser would not let her leave the house.
Both sides presented their arguments on the opening day of Revette Sauser’s retrial on the first-degree murder charge.
Revette Sauser is charged again with first-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband, Terry Sauser, on April 3, 2011. The trial began Tuesday in Iowa District Court of Clayton County after it was moved from Delaware County.
Revette Sauser previously was sentenced to 40 years in prison after taking a plea deal for her role in her husband’s death. She had been accused of shooting Terry Sauser and holding him at gunpoint.
As part of the deal, she pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter, second-degree kidnapping and going armed with intent, and the initial charge of first-degree murder was dismissed. However, Sauser later claimed her attorney was ineffective for allowing her to plead guilty to kidnapping without enough facts to support the charge.
The Iowa Supreme Court agreed with Sauser’s appeal but ruled that the original charge of first-degree murder must be reinstated if the kidnapping charge couldn’t be justified.
On Tuesday, Iowa Assistant Attorney General Tyler Buller argued in his opening statement that Revette Sauser shot Terry Sauser at their home in Ryan, Iowa, because she didn’t like that her husband kept in contact with his ex-wife, Bonnie Sauser.
“She was jealous,” he said. “She shot her husband, and she killed him. It’s why we’re here today.”
He also said Revette Sauser told people she got a gun to kill her husband and that she was seeking “divorce by gunshot.”
Buller said Revette Sauser changed her story multiple times about what happened on April 3, 2011, including claiming that she shot Terry Sauser as part of a double-suicide pact. She eventually claimed that she was angry and jealous, and Buller said evidence will show that that was the case.
Defense attorney Nichole Watt, however, argued in her opening statement that “tragedies can happen without it being murder.” Watt said the Sausers’ relationship had effectively ended by April 3, 2011, and Revette Sauser simply went to the home that day to speak with her husband about their marriage.
Watt said Revette Sauser feared her husband wouldn’t let her leave the home and pulled out a gun to defend herself. Terry was shot in an ensuing struggle for the weapon, Watt said.
“Someone did lose their life in this event, and that’s something Revette lives with every day,” Watt said. “But she’s not a murderer. She’s not a monster.”
The jury on Tuesday heard a recorded 911 call from Revette Sauser on April 3, 2011, in which she reported that she shot her husband during a fight in their home.
“I shot my husband on accident,” an upset Revette Sauser said on the call. “We were arguing, and he told me I couldn’t leave. … He said, ‘If I can’t have you, nobody can have you.’ He didn’t know I had a gun.”
The jury was also shown text messages from Revette Sauser to one of her friends on that day. The texts stated that Revette Sauser intended to go home and grab a few things, and she had a gun in case her husband wouldn’t let her leave.
One of the texts read: “Lol got my gun loaded he better leave me alone I’ll shoot.”
Heather Jo Sauser, Terry and Bonnie Sauser’s daughter, testified that Revette Sauser repeatedly called Bonnie on April 3, 2011, after Bonnie called her ex-husband with an insurance question.
“At that point, my mom ignored the calls, but the phone was ringing off the hook,” Heather Jo Sauser said.
She said she went for a 45-minute walk with her mom. When the pair returned, they heard that Terry Sauser had been shot.
Manchester Police Chief Jim Hauschild testified that he went to the Sausers’ home after receiving a report of shots being fired. Hauschild said he found Terry Sauser with a gunshot wound to the chest and a gun lying on the floor nearby.
Revette Sauser was in the house when law enforcement arrived and was immediately detained, he said. She told law enforcement that the pair had struggled over the gun, but Hauschild said nothing in the house was disturbed or indicated a struggle took place.
“She was excited, panicky,” Hauschild said. “I don’t think that I saw tears, but she was obviously very upset.”
The trial will resume today and is expected continue throughout the week.