Alice and Gerald Uden were quietly living out their senior years in the rural Ozarks of Missouri until the killings of their former spouses caught up with them last year and they were convicted separately in two old Wyoming murder cases.
On Monday, a judge in Cheyenne is scheduled to sentence Alice Uden, who killed her husband with a bullet to the head in the mid-1970s. The 75-year-old faces at least 20 years in prison but could get up to a life sentence.
Jurors in May didn't buy Alice Uden's account that she had to kill Ronald Holtz, 25, to defend her toddler daughter from him. They found her guilty of second-degree murder.
Yet her attorneys' argument that Holtz, her third husband, was abusive could come up again at sentencing before Laramie County District Judge Steven Sharpe.
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"I was terrified of him. He'd threatened to kill my daughter," Uden told an investigator in a recording of the interview played at her trial.
Prosecutors argued that she shot Holtz with a rifle as he slept. One of her sons, Todd Scott, testified that his mother told him as much decades ago, and the confession has haunted him ever since.
In court, Scott turned to his frail mother seated in a wheelchair and said, "I hate you."
The shooting happened at the couple's home in Cheyenne in late 1974 or early 1975. Uden testified she put Holtz's body in a cardboard barrel, wrested it into the trunk of her car, and dumped it in an abandoned gold mine in the high country between Cheyenne and Laramie.
Scott first told investigators in the 1980s about the place where his mother dumped the body, but attempts to find Holtz's remains in the mine, which was used to dispose of animal carcasses, were unsuccessful until investigators dug deeper than ever before last summer.
The jurors declined to find Uden guilty of premeditated, first-degree murder, which would have carried a mandatory life sentence. They also declined to convict her of the least-serious charge, manslaughter.
Already serving life in prison is Uden's fourth and current husband, Gerald Uden, 72, who pleaded guilty in November to three counts of first-degree murder for shooting his ex-wife and her two children in central Wyoming in 1980.
Authorities arrested the Chadwick, Missouri, couple last fall. Prosecutors haven't drawn any link between the two cases.
Gerald Uden admitted killing Virginia Uden, 32, and their two sons — Richard, 11, and Reagan, 10 — when authorities questioned him about the deaths last year. Their bodies have yet to be found. Gerald Uden said in a Fremont County courtroom in November that he shot each of them with a rifle not far from his home and dumped their bodies in an abandoned mine.
Months later, he said, he retrieved the bodies and sank them in Fremont Lake in western Wyoming.
Investigators briefly searched the lake for the bodies last fall and have been planning a more comprehensive search, but they face an enormous challenge: The lake is 10 miles long, a mile wide, and at 600 feet is among the deepest in the U.S.
"It's not something we can accomplish ourselves. So we have to depend on the timing of other assets to assist us," Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Director Steve Woodson said Friday.
Gerald Uden was hazy about his motive, saying in court only that his ex-wife had become "intolerable" and was using the boys to drive a wedge into his relationship with Alice.