Rickie La Touche, 30, strangled his wife over Star Wars memorabilia.
He says that she damaged some items from his Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker collection. The man, also known as Rickie Nehls, had been collecting since he was a child.
La Touche told police that the killing occurred after he snapped. He says his wife, Pornpilai Srisroy, has made his life "hell." He claims she hit him with a pool cue, and threatened to "cut him up and eat him" in the past. He says he even called a domestic violence hotline to report her last year.
The case went before a jury, and La Touche was found guilty of murder. He now faces a minimum sentence of 12 years to life in a British prison.
If a similar crime occurred here in America, what exactly would happen?
In the U.S., there are various crimes a defendant accused of a killing can be charged with:
- First-degree murder: This is a willful, premeditated killing. Example: someone lying in wait in the bushes for someone to come home to kill them.
- Second-degree murder: Second-degree murder is usually an intentional killing that isn't premeditated. Example: a man sees his neighbor in bed with his wife. The next day, he sees his neighbor by chance. He shoots at the neighbor, but the shot accidentally kills a nearby pedestrian.
- Voluntary manslaughter: This is an intentional killing where the defendant had no intent to kill. The killing occurred in the "heat of passion." Example: a man sees his neighbor in bed with his wife, and at that moment he pulls out a gun and shoots the neighbor.
- Involuntary manslaughter: This is typically an unintentional killing. Example: a person drinks and drives but then accidentally kills someone in a car accident.
In this spectrum, where would La Touche's crime fall?
It's not a clear cut call. Rickie La Touche says he strangled his wife over the Star Wars memorabilia. A "heat of the passion" defense typically needs to involve something that would emotionally disturb a reasonable person. Whether or not destruction of Darth Vader toys qualifies would be up for a jury to decide.