World Is this young mother a killer or the victim of a legal nightmare?

12:06  17 june  2017
12:06  17 june  2017 Source:   The Washington Post

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Kim Pham LaRocque was a suburban mom with nothing more serious on her record than a speeding ticket, when she phoned 911 saying she had found her husband unresponsive in their Vienna bedroom. The call about the death of Eric John LaRocque came in at 6:34 p.m. on July 31, 2015.

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Kimhoang Pham LaRocque is charged with murder in the shooting death of her husband.© Fairfax Country Police Kimhoang Pham LaRocque is charged with murder in the shooting death of her husband. Kim Pham LaRocque was a suburban mom with nothing more serious on her record than a speeding ticket, when she phoned 911 saying she had found her husband unresponsive in their Vienna bedroom.

The call about the death of Eric John LaRocque came in at 6:34 p.m. on July 31, 2015. It’s one of the few points of agreement in competing narratives that will soon come before a Fairfax County jury: Kim is either a calculating killer or victim of a legal nightmare.

While her children slumbered in the room next door, prosecutors say Kim, 36, slipped into the bedroom and fired a bullet into the back of her 33-year-old husband’s head as he too slept. She then pulled drawers out to make it look like a robbery.

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For her part, Kim has never wavered in her innocence, allowing herself to be questioned extensively by police without an attorney present and making no effort to flee even after detectives pointedly told her they believed she was the killer, her attorney Peter Greenspun said at a bond hearing.

What’s more, Greenspun said she had little motive, earning more than $120,000 a year in a position with Fannie Mae, and having no debt, drug problems or other issues. He said the state lacks proof.

“There is simply no evidence here other than, ‘Judge, it’s a serious case and we think she did it,’ ” Greenspun said in court.

But after an exhaustive, months-long investigation in which prosecutors used a special grand jury to ferret out facts, they believe they have enough evidence in a case which involves two alleged affairs, explicit text messages, a phone sting and a missing gun. Kim is slated to stand trial on murder and weapons charges June 19 in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

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The slaying has shocked family, friends and neighbors, many of whom saw a successful couple with two beautiful children, now 3 and 4. Kim has a master’s degree in finance from Virginia Tech.

Eric worked as an engineer at Fairfax’s Dewberry company. He enjoyed biking, kayaking and other sports.

“He loved his children. He valued the outdoors. He wanted his children to grow up valuing nature,” said his mother Mary Lou LaRocque of Plattsburgh, N.Y. “He was a friend to everybody.”

Kim told relatives who stayed with the couple that Eric was sick and would not be going to work on the morning of the day she placed the 911 call, Greenspun said at the bond hearing. Kim then commuted to Fannie Mae.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ryan B. Bredemeier said at the same bond hearing that Kim texted her sister at one point to check on Eric. When the sister knocked on the bedroom door and got no response, she texted Kim back to ask if she should go in.

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“Oh, no, let him sleep,” Bredemeier said Kim texted back. “Don’t bother him.”

When Kim arrived home that evening, she greeted her family and then went to the bedroom to change and check on Eric, Bredemeier said. Kim told police she took a step or two into the room, before noticing lots of blood and placing the 911 call.

But Bredemeier said doubts were cast on Kim’s account after prosecutors called the special grand jury to investigate the case in February 2016. Bredemeier said unnamed witnesses testified Kim went into the bedroom for about a minute and shut the door, before calling 911.

Bredemeier said Kim had the opportunity to kill Eric, when she was home with him and the kids the night before. Her relatives had gone to a casino in Maryland and didn’t return until the morning.

Investigators who arrived at the home found Eric in bed on his side, Bredemeier said. The fatal shot was fired from close range and the bullet traveled through the wall of the bedroom catching in a child’s onesie in the kid’s room next door, Bredemeier told a judge.

Police recovered a .357-caliber gun from a closet in the bedroom that belonged to Kim and her husband, but Bredemeier said they never found the murder weapon: a .40-caliber handgun.

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Bredemeier told the judge that Eric had borrowed a .40-caliber handgun from one of Kim’s brothers, but it was never returned. The gun, along with Eric’s cellphone, were the only items that police determined were missing in the wake of the slaying.

Eric’s death drew an outpouring of grief from his co-workers and friends. Kim publicly mourned him, changing her Facebook profile image to a photo of a button that read “Forever in our hearts” and had Eric’s initials.

Greenspun said in court the way Kim soldiered on with her life was evidence of her innocence. She cooperated with police, continued working her job, raising her children and allowing her in-laws to visit with their grandchildren.

But investigators would grow suspicious of Kim. They found a reason Kim might want her husband dead: Evidence they say shows Kim was having an affair with a co-worker at Fannie Mae.

Bredemeier said prosecutors have a series of suggestive text messages between Kim and the man.

“Could you fly down to Charlotte and rub my back?,” Bredemeier read from one sent by Kim to the co-worker. “That would be amazing. Bad idea. I would.”

Greenspun wrote in court filings that the man participated in a “sting” phone call to Kim and would be a key witness for the prosecution. Court documents don’t detail what Kim told the co-worker during the phone call or what his testimony might be.

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Greenspun said in court the defense can prove Kim did not have an intimate relationship with the man, leaving the prosecution with little motive. He hinted the defense believes there is more to the case.

“We have our own theories about what may have occurred here but they don’t in any manner involve Ms. LaRocque,” Greenspun told a judge.

In another wrinkle, Kim’s alleged affair is not the only indiscretion in the case. Based on case filings, a judge said at a hearing Friday that Kim was aware before Eric’s killing that her husband had an alleged affair that dated from 2014.

Greenspun and prosecutors declined to comment for this story.

In May 2016, Kim was indicted on charges of murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. She was initially denied bond, but in an unusual move for a first-degree murder case a judge set bail at $250,000 over prosecutor’s objections at a subsequent hearing.

“Given the premeditation in this case and the use of a firearm, I submit that she is an extreme danger to the community,” Bredemeier told a judge to no avail.

Greenspun said in court that Kim hopes to prove her innocence at trial and win custody of her children, who have been staying with their grandparents in New York state.

For now, Mary Lou LaRocque said she and the children FaceTime with Kim every night — an awkward arrangement between an alleged killer and the mother of her victim. She said it is difficult, but she has no other choice.

“Our goal is to do what’s best for his children,” Mary Lou LaRocque said.

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