Emotions ran high for supporters of both the prosecution and the defense as the jury returned a verdict Saturday in the trial of Alois Kudlach in the shooting death of his wife.
Both sides burst into tears in the Centre County Courthouse Annex main courtroom as a juror, identified as juror No. 9, read the verdict: guilty.
Kudlach, 50, was found guilty on charges of first-degree murder, third-degree murder, aggravated assault, possession of a weapon and intercepting communications. He was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Kudlach was charged with the shooting death of his wife, which occurred on Aug. 30, 2015.
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Jurors deliberated for about an hour after final arguments by defense attorney Karen Muir and Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.
Muir presented first, referring back to the first day of the trial when she encouraged the jurors to “walk a mile” in Kudlach’s shoes. According to Muir, the commonwealth had not proven that Kudlach did not act in self-defense.
Muir argued that the evidence showed Nuria Kudlach was holding the knife found on the scene as evidenced by the blood that was found on the handle and the blade. Suspected pieces of the robe she was wearing when she was shot were also found on the knife.
She also argued against the idea that Nuria was crouched or in a cowering position when she was shot, pointing to testimony by the Kudlachs’ son, Alex, that he saw his mother sliding to the floor when he entered the kitchen after the final shot.
Muir cast doubt on a computer animation depicting the commonwealth’s version of the shooting, pointing out inaccuracies in the distance and placement of the body in the short clip.
She also brought up the changes in Nuria’s behavior as described by her husband’s testimony — incidents of physical fighting and Kudlach’s testimony of how his wife once rushed for a handgun kept in his car.
“When she said, ‘This ends now,’ and picked up a knife, Al’s life changed,” Muir said. “He became fearful.”
Parks Miller presented second, saying she was “shocked” when she heard Muir’s closing argument and questioned if they had been in the same room together.
Parks Miller claimed that a majority of Kudlach’s own testimony was aimed at disparaging his wife, and he never indicated that he was sorry that he killed her.
She described Kudlach’s history of hospitalizing and calling the police on his wife, building a history in order to make her look violent and projecting an image of a wife who was “out of control.” She also argued that though he had presented himself as fearful for his life the day of the shooting, past behavior showed no fear, even going so far as to taunt his wife with a knife prior to the shooting.
Parks Miller also argued that, while it’s not the job of the prosecution to establish motive, the notion that Kudlach could lose a significant portion of his finances if Nuria were to divorce him demonstrated a partial motive to end her life.
She also returned to the forensic evidence, saying the path of the bullet didn’t align with Kudlach’s retelling of the morning’s events and rather showed a husband who had snuck up on his wife and opened fire.
Centre County Judge Jonathan D. Grine sentenced Kudlach to life in prison on the count of first-degree murder, following the verdict. No sentencing was made on the remaining charges.
Following the verdict, Muir said the family of Alois Kudlach was very disappointed, but she respects the decision of the jury. She added that some pretrial rulings had prevented some evidence from being presented, and she is exploring an appeal.
“Yes, Mrs. Kudlach is no longer with us,” she said, “but Mr. Kudlach lived a bad life with her and it was very traumatic for him.”
Kudlach’s trial began Monday. Alison Althouse, of Forest Hill, Md., said she knew Nuria in high school and sat in on the trial from the beginning.
She said she couldn’t imagine the position the jury was in, but it was gratifying that the jury was able to see the truth so clearly and quickly.
“I think listening to the jury, realizing how thoroughly they saw the truth, made everyone who knew and loved Nuria comfortable,” Althouse said.
Parks Miller said she was pleased with the verdict, saying it was justice for Nuria Kudlach.
“We’re pleased the jury saw through the story that it was self-defense and found the right verdict for her,” she said. “This was an intentional, cold-blooded homicide. ... It was extremely cruel and unwarranted.”