Crime & Courts

Jury acquits woman in death of husband

For two years, Melinda Hazelton has said she shot her husband in self-defense.

Friday, seven men and five women people believed her, as a Sedgwick County jury found Hazelton not guilty of second-degree murder.

Jurors deliberated about 5 1/2 hours, beginning Thursday afternoon, before acquitting her in the 2009 shooting death of John Hazelton.

Defense attorney Richard Ney argued that John Hazelton attacked his estranged wife because he didn't want her to tell police that he'd abused their daughter.

Melinda Hazelton remained silent for 19 years, Ney said, as she endured violence at her husband's hands.

But when she learned her daughter had suffered, the mother decided to go to police.

She would be the one arrested on Nov. 13, 2009, however.

That Friday, Melinda Hazelton was set to meet with police. But she said before she could go to police, her husband wanted to come over and talk.

She testified that after John Hazelton arrived, he once again turned violent. She said he held a gun on her and tried to force her to take an overdose of prescription sedatives.

Her pet cat may have saved her life.

John Hazelton apparently put his gun down to tend to the cat. Melissa Hazelton grabbed the weapon and fired, shooting him in the chin.

Melinda Hazelton called 911 for help.

"I didn't want to die," police testified Melinda Hazelton told them when they arrived within minutes of the shooting.

John Hazelton, 45, died the next day at the hospital.

Jurors asked Judge David Kaufman to replay the 911 tape and Hazelton's recorded interview with police before rendering their verdict.

A therapist, who had counseled the couple, had testified that Melinda Hazelton was terrified of her husband.

The counselor also reported John Hazelton admitted having homicidal thoughts two weeks before the shooting.