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Wife of former Olympic shot-putter Dave Laut arrested in connection with his fatal shooting

February 15, 2010 |  2:38 pm

Lanow.jane The shooting death of former Olympic shot-putter Dave Laut  took a  surprising twist over the weekend when police arrested the bronze medalist’s wife on suspicion of gunning him down at their Oxnard home and her attorney claimed that she had been a long-time victim of domestic abuse.

Jane Laut, 52, was taken into custody Saturday and remains in Ventura County jail on a $3-million bond, said her attorney Ron Bamieh. Ventura County prosecutors  are preparing to charge her with murder and firearms charges this week, according to a report today in the Ventura County Star.

The courts were closed today for President’s Day and the prosecutor on the case was unavailable for comment.

Lanow.dave Laut, 52, was killed by multiple gunshots outside his home around midnight on Aug. 27. Jane Laut initially told police that they heard noises in the backyard and that her husband was slain when he went to investigate.

In a statement issued after her arrest, Laut’s attorney acknowledged that his client was the shooter. But she killed her husband in self-defense during a violent argument in which an intoxicated Laut threatened to shoot her, their 10-year-old son  and their two dogs,  Bamieh said.

Jane Laut was able to wrestle the gun away from an intoxicated Laut when the fight moved to their back patio and he lost his balance, Bamieh said. One shot was fired during the struggle, the attorney said, and as Laut was getting back up she  “emptied the gun.”

Bamieh said Dave Laut had physically abused his wife throughout the 29-year marriage. His alcoholism was well known to friends, her attorney said. But fewer people were aware that he abused his wife and sometimes threatened and ridiculed their son, Michael, whom the couple had adopted from China, he said.

Laut at first blamed her husband’s killing on prowlers because she had been conditioned for years  to cover up the true state of their marriage, he said. When she came to his office the day after Laut’s killing, he photographed bruises up and down her arms, Bamieh said.

Bamieh said his investigators found many friends and relatives of the couple who can corroborate Dave Laut’s excessive drinking, his moodiness and his attempts to isolate his wife from her family, he said.

“There are many reports of Jane walking on eggshells around Dave all the time,’’ Bamieh said.

The defense attorney’s portrait of Laut, who won a bronze medal for the shot put in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, contrasts sharply with depictions of Dave Laut as a “gentle giant” following his death.

Friends and former competitors praised him as a man of honor and integrity, and a world-class athlete who returned to his humble Oxnard roots to teach. Jane Laut took care of their modest home in Oxnard, where they had lived for nearly two decades.

She had no job skills and no sources of income other than her husband’s work as an athletic director at Hueneme High School, Bamieh said. The couple both  were raised in Oxnard. Jane Laut comes from a prominent Oxnard ranching family, the Laubachers.

--Catherine Saillant

Photos: Jane Laut (top); Dave Laut. Credit: Ventura County Sheriff's Department; Getty Images