Charles Buck Acquitted in Wife's Death

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NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) – A man was acquitted Wednesday of killing his school teacher wife in 2002, after experts gave conflicting testimony on whether her death was a murder or the result of a heart condition.

A three-judge panel in New London Superior Court found 64-year-old Charles Buck not guilty of murder in the death of 57-year-old Leslie Buck at the couple’s home in Mystic, just two days after she escaped a kidnapping and assault attack by another man. Buck opted for the panel of judges instead of a jury.

Buck had faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Leslie Buck, a second-grade teacher at Deans Mill School in Stonington, was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in her home in May 2002. The medical examiner’s office couldn’t determine whether it was a homicide.

Prosecutor Lawrence Tytla and experts for the state alleged Charles Buck strangled his wife and bashed her in the head with a large copper cable. Tytla said the motive was that Charles Buck was infatuated with another woman on whom he spent more than $300,000.

But other medical examiners testified for the defense that Leslie Buck died of myocarditis, a heart condition. Buck’s lawyer, Hubert Santos, said the uncertainty of how she died created enough reasonable doubt to warrant an acquittal, The Day of New London reported.

Judges Joseph Purtill, John Boland and Stuart Schimelman deliberated for half the day Wednesday before reaching their verdict, after hearing closing arguments on Tuesday. Buck had denied any involvement in his wife’s death, saying he found her body at the bottom of the staircase.

Two days before her death, Leslie Buck endured a harrowing ordeal in which she was assaulted in her garage, tied up, put into her car and driven around for two hours before managing to escape.

Leslie Buck told police that the attacker was Russell Kirby, a handyman who had done work at the couple’s home.

Kirby is serving a 21-year prison sentence for kidnapping and assault. Police say Kirby admitted that he kidnapped Leslie Buck in an effort to get money. Charles Buck refused to testify at Kirby’s trial, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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