Dave Laut was an Olympic shot-put champion who became even more famous after he was killed by his wife, Jane Laut, who alleged that he had battered her since the beginning of their marriage.
In 2016, Jane was convicted of murder and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison, the Ventura County Star reported. Her attorneys were trying as recently as 2019 to get her conviction overturned on the grounds that the prosecutor made misleading statements to the jury.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Dave Laut Was an Olympic Shot Putter
According to an obituary printed in the Ventura County Star, Dave Laut was born December 21, 1956, and became a well-known athlete at Santa Clara High School, which he graduated from in 1975.
According to a Find A Grave memorial, the Ohio native went on to win a gold medal at San Juan’s 1979 Pan American Games, a bronze medal at the Rome’s 1981 IAAF World Cup and a bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. He made his best throw in Koblenz, Germany, just two years before the Olympics with a 22-meter throw.
A June 24, 1984, article in the Los Angeles Times article announced Laut’s Olympic victory this way: “Veteran Laut shows pretenders how you deal with the pressure.” Laut won the shot-put competition in the fifth round.
However, when Laut tried to make a comeback at the 1988 Olympics after his third-place disappointment in 1984, he suffered a severe injury that wrecked his knees in training, the Washington Post reported. Instead, he began teaching and served as the athletic director of the Oxnard Union High School District and the Hueneme High School.
2. Dave & Jane Laut Met In High School
According to the Ventura County Star, Dave Laut and Jane — whose last name was then Laubacher — met in high school. He was a popular athlete who was talented in football, track and field and basketball; she was a homecoming queen who was one of the best volleyball players on her team.
The couple dated after high school and married in 1980, the Star reported. After the 1984 Olympic games and his subsequent injury several years later, Laut took a job at Santa Clara High School and he began working his way up to his eventual position as athletic director at Hueneme High. In the meantime, the couple adopted a son from South Korea named Michael in 1999.
According to what Jane Laut told 48 Hours, their marriage was a good one until they’d had Michael for five years and their relationship “started going downhill.”
“We had happy times,” she said, “… and right up ’til Michael was probably 5 was the best time of our marriage. And it just – it just started going downhill. And it – got worse and worse every year.”
However, Dave Laut’s sister-in-law, Rebecca Laut, refuted that in the Star and said that although their marriage was unhappy, she never heard Jane mention physical abuse and instead mainly heard that Jane Laut didn’t like how much time her husband was spending away and was fearful that Dave Laut would “leave the marriage” and take Michael away from her.
3. Prosecutors Alleged Jane Laut Killed Her Husband Over Money
The murder took place on August 27, 2009, the Ventura County Star reported. Neighbors Carlos and Esther Anaya heard multiple gunshots from next door. The shots were from the Lauts’ residence and Jane, according to CBS News, called 911 and said her husband was shot by an intruder.
She later admitted that the intruder story was a lie and said that she had shot her husband on purpose. However, according to The Washington Post, she said the shooting was in self-defense because she was a victim of prolonged physical abuse. Prosecutors did not buy her story.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Rameen Minoui argued that Jane Laut had executed her husband when she shot him six times near the head and chest area. The police’s theory of the crime, according to the Post, was that she had “followed Dave into the back yard that night and used a Ruger to shoot him from behind, then she hid the gun in the family’s grandfather clock and called 911 with the story of the intruder.”
Prosecutors instead painted the portrait of a woman obsessed with money and willing to do anything for more. Dotty Laut, Dave Laut’s mother, testified that she gave Jane Laut $60,000 over the years for bills and other expenses, according to the Ventura County Star. Minoui also noted that she would be the recipient of $300,000 in life insurance and other benefits if her husband died.
4. During Her Defense at Trial, Laut Said She Was a Battered Wife
Jane Laut told the jury that the death of her husband happened during a struggle for the gun in which it initially went off and she fired shot after shot to keep him down, CBS News reported. “He was trying to get up on his knees when she starts firing. … There was no aiming, no looking,” defense attorney Ron Bamieh said. “If he gets up, she is done and Michael is done. He kept coming and he would not stop.”
Contrary to what she had told 48 Hours in May 2016 – that her marriage with Dave had “started going downhill” after Michael was 5 – Laut told the court during her trial that her husband had beaten and raped her for 30 years, leading her to develop a severe fear of him and multiple mental health issues, including battered woman syndrome and post-traumatic distress disorder, the Ventura County Star reported.
On the night that she killed Dave Laut, she said she thought it was the only way to stop him, CBS News reported. “Normally he’d get mad and it would taper off sometimes. But he never stopped all night. He just kept … raging,” she said.
At the height of his rage, Jane Laut alleged that a drunk Dave Laut pushed her against a doorknob and threatened to kill her with his Ruger revolver along with their son Michael and their dogs, CBS News reported. He yelled in her face, she tried to push him outside, they stumbled and she “felt one gunshot go off,” CBS News reported. After that, she fired to keep her husband from getting up and coming after her, she said.
Don Laut, Dave Laut’s brother, and his wife, Rebecca Laut, have said it was frustrating having to listen to Jane’s testimony. “I wanted to say to her, ‘I know you are lying’ … yet we had to sit there day after day and just listen to garbage,” the Ventura County Star reported. “I wanted to say, ‘Come on Jane. Just tell the truth.'”
Beth Baumer, Jane Laut’s niece, told Heavy that Rebecca Laut is a liar. She said that – unlike Dave Laut’s family – her attorneys instructed her and her family not to speak to the media during the trial, which she now regrets.
“(Our) attorneys told us not to speak to the media, (but) Dave’s family was allowed to speak to the media and the jury was not sequestered,” Baumer said. “We have a recorded voicemail from (Rebecca Laut) saying she stood behind Jane 100 % and knew what had been going on……then she later mysteriously turned on her. …..most likely because she found out she could get a life insurance payment.”
The Lauts’ son Michael testified that even though he was asleep on the night of his father’s death, he recalled Dave Laut having a short temper. “I remembered being called a sissy. I couldn’t fully understand everything as a child, but I just knew he always had a short temper. I can remember memories of being afraid and trying to be careful. It really was tough to walk on eggshells because anything could set him off,” Michael said. He also recalled his mother telling him to go to the computer room and put headphones on, and his father becoming angry at dinner and sweeping food-filled dishes off the table.
5. Jane Laut’s Defense Attorneys Have Been Working to Reverse Her Conviction
Befoe her trial, Jane Laut turned down five plea deals, the Washington Post reported. However, she told 48 Hours that she did so because she wanted people to “know what really happened.” In the end, she was convicted of murder and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.
Since then, Laut’s attorneys have attempted to get an appellate panel of three judges to reverse the verdict. In their arguments, they said defense witness experts should have been allowed to explain that the battered woman syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder from years of abuse could have affected Laut’s state of mind at the time of the murder. They also said that some of the prosecutors’ statements were meant “to confuse, distract and mislead” the jury, the Ventura County Star reported.
However, the judges dismissed both of these arguments. The judges described the prosecutors’ comments as “egregious” but also noted that the judge had ordered the jury to disregard them. In addition, according to the Ventura County Star, both the prosecutor and defense attorney were sanctioned by the court during that trial.
The judge also said that testimony on battered woman syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder had been excluded unfairly, but the exclusion was ultimately “harmless” because jurors would have been able to apply the generalized statements experts were making to Jane Laut’s situation without them having to explicitly make the connection.
As a result, Laut’s conviction was ultimately upheld.