- Ackworth, IA
Hi, I'm Tracey Richter.
Tracey Richter's Bio:
JUNE 26, 2014, UPDATE: Thank you Rev. Carlos Jayne of Justice Reform Consortium, for helping to expose this awful truth. See more here ~
JUNE 23, 20104, UPDATE: Our family is thankful to the The Des Moines Register Editorial team for squeezing so many facts into such a short story.
Tracey Richter Roberts
In 2001, my kids and I were victimized during a brutal home invasion and attacked by two men. To save myself and my children, I fought off the attack, grabbed guns from our safe, and shot one of the intruders (a troubled 20-year-old, Dustin Wehde). A decade later Ben Smith, a new county attorney and friend of my ex-husband, took office and charged me with 1st Degree Murder. The prosecutions star witness was the mother (Mary Higgins) of the Prosecutors (Ben Smith) fiancee (Abigal Higgins) said that I told her about a secret notebook that was found in the dead intruder’s car that the police never revealed to the public. Ben Smith’s case is based on the new testimony of his fiancee's mother, client, and star witness, Mary Higgins. Mary had helped Ben get elected. The two claim to have an epiphany while he was having dinner in her home and he was discussing the case with her. He claims that she told him that I told her about a “pink notebook” back in 2002. However, when Mary was interviewed shortly after this epiphany, she never mentions the color of the notebook and claims that it was filled with pornography, which is not in the notebook that Ben Smith used to convict me. Mary has been interviewed numerous times since 2001 (including a full interview just two months after she says I told her about the notebook) and never mentions a notebook until 2009 in her kitchen. Robyn Padgett testified that she told Mary Higgins about another notebook that she found with Mona Wehde (mother of the first intruder) in Dustin’s bedroom. There was even a third notebook found in a suitcase packed full of clothes in Dustin Wehde’s car; this notebook has since disappeared from the prosecution’s file. With three different notebooks, there was bound to be confusion. In addition to many conflicting statements in Mary’s interviews, one particular interview gives us a glimpse into the way her testimony is fabricated (see document here)While being taped, Mary Higgins asks “What is this?” Ben Smith answers that “this is your testimony for her trial.” Sheriff McClure, who is also attending, recommends that they go off tape and they leave the room to discuss the testimony for 8 minutes. We believe they handed her a prepared testimony for my trial before charges had even been filed. During the discovery process, we learned from the previous county attorney, Earl Hardisty, that certain exculpatory evidence had not been disclosed to my defense counsel. When this came to the attention of Ben Smith, he threatened Earl Hardisty to intimidate him (affidavit attached at the end of motion for sanctions). Ben Smith denied that the evidence existed until several witnesses verified that the evidence had been collected and was in the file when Ben Smith took office. All the state witnesses were prepared by Ben Smith and Trent Vileta (a detective with the Department of Criminal Investigation or DCI). These witnesses now remember things in detail that were never written into their reports or interviews around the time of the attack.
Sloppy and Biased Detective Work
Sac County law enforcement admits that the crime scene was significantly contaminated prior to the arrival of DCI investigators, by as many as a dozen policemen and EMTs. There was also a bloody footprint that was assumed to be one of the first responders, but it was never matched to their shoes. That could be the footprint of the second intruder. DCI spent only a couple of hours processing the 4,000 square foot home (in part because they believed it to be a self-defense shooting). They turned the home over to my ex-husband less than 20 hours after the attack and he is able to find a shell casing that they had missed. Several of the bullets are never recovered.
Shortly after the attack, Dustin Wehde’s mother, Mona Wehde, called the police and gave several interviews in which she believes her ex-lover, Jeremy Collins, could be the second intruder. While still married, she had been in an affair with this man. Just days after the attack, Collins broke up with her. He had bragged about being a hit-man for hire, he fit the description, and he was the last person to call the Wehde home prior to the attack even though he knew Mona wasn’t home. His hotel phone number was found on a post-it note in Dustin’s room in Dustin’s hand-writing. Collins was a no-call no-show at his work two days before the attack, but hadn’t told his wife that he quit. On the same day, he was able to use $11,000 to pay off his truck, but his wife says they didn’t have that kind of money (his bank statements were “lost” by Ben Smith). In his alibi, he claimed to be home with his family that night, but his wife testified that he never came home that night. Neighbors reported seeing a truck matching his truck’s description adjacent to my home at the time of the attack. Collins knew both Dustin Wehde and my ex-husband, who was conspicuously out of town and also had $2 million in life insurance on me at the time. With this information, nobody from law enforcement even looked into Jeremy Collins until 2005 and nobody interviewed him until 2009. The DCI never obtained a search warrant for Jeremy Collins or Dustin Wehde’s residences or computers.
The Pink Notebook wasn’t fingerprinted until 2009 when it was found to have 13 readable fingerprints. Ten were Dustin’s, none were mine, but Jeremy Collins’ and my ex-husband Michael Roberts’s fingerprints were never compared to the unknown prints. In addition, the former county attorney Earl Hardisty made multiple requests to have DCI put Jeremy Collins in a photo line-up for me to see if I could identify him as the second intruder and they refused. Trent Vileta wrote in an email to Sheriff McClure in 2010 that he was “having a very hard time appearing to be neutral.” Trent Vileta misled Mona Wehde and changed the tone of her testimony by telling her that Michael Roberts had been cleared of any wrong-doing in the death of Dustin Wehde. However, in fact there is no record in the discovery of any interviews with Roberts after his failed polygraph in 2002. He was found to be deceptive with 99% certainty when he gave the following responses:
- Did you arrange for Dustin Wehde to be in your house December 13th? No.
Did you plan in advance for Dustin to be in your home December 13th? No.
Do you know the identity of the 2nd intruder in your home on Dec. 13th? No.
Facts and Finish
The state’s forensic experts testified that I fired my first five shots from a low, defensive position in the corner of the bedroom, striking Dustin in the pelvis and forearm and that these were all non-fatal wounds. This matches my interviews and memories of the attack and my story has been consistent over the course of the 10 years. Again, their own forensics report shows that the final shots had to be fired while Dustin’s head was off the floor, matching my accounts that he was trying to get up when I fired the last shots.
Please help me. My family was victimized 11 years ago and now it is happening again. Ben Smith also helped hide my ex-husband Michael Roberts so we couldn’t serve him to testify at trial. Ben helped Roberts get into a State of California Domestic Abuse Protection Program even after I was in jail even though he was never in any danger from me. In fact, Roberts was arrested for domestic abuse in 2000 for assaulting me. As part of his “community service”, he told me that he did illegal hacking for the Sac County Sheriff’s Office. I reported this to the FBI seven months before the attack was perpetrated on my kids and me. I still have the postage receipt for the information I sent to the FBI. I believe that my husband at the time, Michael Roberts, used Dustin Wehde and Jeremy Collins to try to kill me that night to keep me quiet and collect on the insurance and our marital assets.
Early woman questions motive of attack
By ART CULLEN
Register Staff Writer
Early, Ia. - Dustin Wehde rang Michael and Tracey Roberts' doorbell the afternoon of Dec. 13.
The 20-year-old Early man, who had struck up a friendship with Michael Roberts, was looking for odd jobs. Tracey Roberts told him to come back the next day, when her husband would be home from a business trip to Minneapolis.
An hour later, Roberts was getting her 1-year-old daughter, Mason, ready for a bath.
Roberts laid towels over the banister, along with some pantyhose. Her son, Bert Pitman, 11, was watching a video with his brother, Noah, 3, in Bert's upstairs bedroom.
Roberts heard Maxine, their Rottweiler, barking outside. She yelled out a window for Maxine to hush. Then she heard a noise downstairs.
She thought it must be her husband and Ray Friedman, who had gone to Minneapolis with him. They were due back that night.
Roberts looked down the dark stairwell and saw the tops of two heads. One had dark wavy hair like Ray's. The men started up the stairs. Roberts got a look, framed by the towels, at the first man's face.
It wasn't Ray.
"We made eye contact," Roberts said. "It wasn't a good look."
Roberts retreated with Mason and shoved her daughter in with Bert and Noah. Then somebody tugged hard at Roberts' hair and jolted her back. She told Bert to lock the door.
Someone - Roberts thinks a man in a black leather jacket - choked her with the pantyhose that had been hanging from the banister. She lost her prescription glasses. She was dragged toward the stairwell and blacked out.
Bert heard the men talking. He knew Wehde's voice. He had gone paintball-shooting with Michael Roberts and Wehde. Tracey Roberts, unconscious, hadn't identified Wehde as one of the intruders.
Bert later told his mother that Wehde called the other man "Boss" or "Ross."
Roberts awakened to the sound of Bert, armed with a baseball bat, screaming obscenities at one of the men. Bert later told her Wehde had said, "Shut up or you're next."
Roberts struggled to her feet. She was yanked back by her hair and grabbed under the armpits. The attacker was wearing a black leather jacket. Wehde was wearing a suede coat.
Roberts used all her might and weight to back up the man holding her and slam him into the wall.
"I'm not a tiny, dainty thing," Roberts said.
She ran to her bedroom, dived between the bed and her dresser, and reached for the gun safe under the bed. She fumbled with the combination.
A man was on her back, tugging at her hair.
"It was Dustin who was pulling on me," she said. "That kid was not coming in my house to save me."
It was too tight a fit for him to get his arms around her. The man yanked on her feet. Roberts held onto the safe door, and it sprang open. She grabbed a 9 mm Beretta semiautomatic handgun and twisted back to fire. Nothing.
The safety was on.
She groped with both hands; something clicked.
Roberts turned and squeezed the trigger.
"I fired," she said. "I saw the flash. It was a very loud noise."
She closed her eyes and fired between her and the bed.
She heard breathing. She heard someone run out and down the stairs. She heard her children scream. She climbed over something to get out.
"I was scared to death," Roberts said. "I needed to get to my kids."
She went back toward Bert's bedroom, carrying the Beretta and a six-shot revolver from the gun safe. Bert almost hit her with the baseball bat in the dark hallway.
Roberts saw movement in the shadows near her bedroom and told Bert to stay with the other two children.
She yelled to the figure, "Don't move. Don't get up." The figure tried to get up.
She tried to shoot the Beretta, which was in her right hand. Nothing. She had emptied the 11-shot cartridge in the bedroom.
She fired the revolver in her left hand. It blazed and kicked. A pool of blood formed. She saw no movement.
Roberts approached the bedroom and heard labored breathing. She closed the bedroom door. Mason picked up Roberts' glasses.
They made their way downstairs, where Bert dialed 911.
Roberts was taken away in an ambulance. Bert rode with her. The other children were taken to the hospital, too.
At the hospital in Sac City, she looked in the bathroom mirror. Her throat was swollen and red. She couldn't swallow.
She found out at 3 a.m. that she had shot Dustin Wehde. He was declared dead of multiple gunshot wounds.
"A lot of things don't make sense," Roberts said Sunday. "Why were they there? They never asked for money or jewelry. Why me, and why my family?"
Sac County Sheriff Roger Owens has said he can't see a motive. Authorities are looking for the second man, and Michael Roberts has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction.
Tracey Roberts worries about the family of the man she killed.
"I want the Wehdes to know that we care about them, that our heart goes out to them," she said.
The Roberts want to get away for a while. They planned to leave this week for Australia, where Michael Roberts is from.
Let's see, arguments against gun locks on your defense weapon, arguments against reduced-capacity magazines, arguments for getting a little more practice in at the range, and huge kudos to a brave lady and her son......
Months after attack at her home in Early, woman remains rattled
By VESS MITEV
Register Staff Writer
Early, Ia. - Seven months later, Tracey Roberts still doesn't let anyone but family in her house.
The one recent exception was the Schwan's man, and even that jangled her nerves.
Every time a car drives by slowly, she cringes. Every time headlights sweep across her bedroom window, she jumps.
As far as movies - forget about it. She went to see "Black Hawk Down" and spent half of the graphic war film in the lobby, trying to calm herself.
"I can't bear to see anybody getting attacked," Roberts says. "You don't realize how much violence there is, even on TV, until you have been in that situation."
Roberts was in a violent situation in December, when she was attacked in her home by two intruders.
Police said Roberts was repeatedly assaulted by the two attackers and choked with a nylon stocking. Roberts says she passed out twice before she regained consciousness, grabbed two guns - a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson and a Beretta 9mm - and shot and killed one of the assailants, who later was identified as Dustin Wehde, 20, a troubled youth whom her husband was mentoring.
The other suspect, described as a tall, clean-shaven, wavy-haired man, escaped on foot and has yet to be found, police said.
Roberts' 12-year-old son, Bert, says he protected his younger brother and sister with a baseball bat while his mother was blacked out.
"I started swearing at them and he told me to shut up or I was next," Bert says. "He told me he had 'taken care of' my dad at the airport."
The incident has severed a friendship between the Roberts and the Wehde families and unnerved the 649 residents of this small northwest Iowa community. The police are working leads as far away as Virginia and Chicago but have not released much new information. Why Roberts was attacked and what Wehde was doing in her home are two questions officially unanswered by sheriff's deputies, fueling speculation and debate throughout the town.
The incident has left its mark on a town where people leave the keys in their cars and their front doors unlocked.
"I think we are all a little more cautious," said resident Verona Clifton. "We were shocked when this happened, and it has left a mark."
Mona Wehde, Wehde's mother and a former employee of Tracey Roberts' husband, Michael, says she is sure her son's name will be cleared.
"We have so much to say about Dustin, and about this case, but we can't right now," she says. "Asked if there is division in the town, she says no - "There are too many people on our side."
Michael Roberts isn't so sure.
"I think the one problem people have is in understanding why my family would have anything to do with a kid like Dustin," he says. "We simply wanted to show him the love of Christ in a practical way."
Life has yet to go back to normal for the family of five. The Robertses rarely go to restaurants anymore and they are careful about who their kids play with.
"We live in faith, not in fear," Michael Roberts says. He is splattered with white paint, trying to renovate a barn which is for sale several miles down the road. Stables and horses where the kids can ride could be the next step forward.
The day of Wehde's funeral, the Roberts family closed on another house in Storm Lake with Mona Wehde, a real estate agent, who sold them the house a month before the shooting.
In the town, conspiracy theories run deep. The Robertses say they have heard speculation that there was no other man; that Wehde was trying to stop the other man from hurting Roberts; that Tracey Roberts called Wehde to the house because her husband was away. Both Roberts dismiss those theories as people "hoping for a bit of Jerry Springer in their own town."
"These rumors are like rubbing salt in a wound, not to mention the detrimental effect they have on the police investigation," Michael Roberts says.
Sac County sheriff's officials declined to comment on their investigation but said this is Early's first fatal shooting in memory.
Both families are frustrated at the slow pace with which new information is released. Police have said they are closely tracking the backgrounds of all involved, but divulging information prematurely could damage the progress of the investigation.
Capt. Dennis Cessford, a 22-year veteran of the sheriff's department, said he understands the anxiety of the families.
"Until we get the answers, they will all be nervous, but I guarantee you this case is on my desk right now in three or four thick binders, and it grows week by week," said Cessford, who is working with the state Department of Criminal Investigation.
"I know they are working hard, but not knowing anything is harder," said Tracey Roberts. "Even a press release every three months would be something, but they don't say anything."
"If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of a constitutional privilege." - Arkansas Supreme Court, 1878
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From http://DesMoinesRegister.com/news/stories/c4788993/16779133.html Intruder shot by Early woman turns out to be family friend By JONATHAN ROOS Register Staff Writer 12/16/2001 Early, Ia. Michael Roberts plans to speak at Monday's funeral of Dustin Wehde, a family friend who, in a bizarre twist, was shot to death by Roberts' wife, Tracey, after she was assaulted by two intruders in their home Thursday night. "I'd taken him under my wing to help him out," Michael Roberts said Saturday, promising to reveal more at the funeral for Wehde, 20, of Early. Preliminary results from the state medical examiner show that Wehde died of multiple gunshot wounds. Roberts has posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the other intruder, who escaped on foot. Authorities have released a description of the suspect but were saying little else Saturday about the case. Roberts said he believes the other man was behind the attack in this northwest Iowa town of 649 and should be charged with attempted murder. Wehde "was under the influence of the other person . . . the boss," said Roberts, who operates a computer business. He was returning from a business trip when his wife and three children, ages 1, 3 and 11, encountered two men who entered the home, according to the Sac County Sheriff's Department. Tracey Roberts was choked with a nylon stocking, Michael Roberts said. She managed to fend off the attack with the help of their oldest son, who was armed with a baseball bat. "My 11-year-old was protecting the two younger children and wouldn't let them in" their room, Roberts said. Tracey Roberts had severe bruises from the attempts to strangle her, her husband said Saturday. She passed out twice but was able to regain consciousness and remove a pistol from a small bedside safe, he said. Tracey Roberts was treated and released from Loring Hospital in Sac City. The children reportedly were uninjured. Bruce Wehde said his nephew, Dustin, "was a super friend" to the Roberts family. "They would go to church together. They'd been to paintball-shooting competitions," said Wehde, who lives two houses away from the Roberts' home. The reward flier offers thanks to a number of people in the Sac County community, including "the Wehde family for their friendship over the past two years." Neighbors say they and other townsfolk are more careful now to lock their doors after the attack. "It has been very shocking. I know it happens all the time, but this is a small town and somebody you know," said Ardola Huisenga. She and her husband, Everett, were watching television when they saw the flashing lights of emergency vehicles come down the street. "It's a pretty quiet town, so something like that really shakes people up," she said. Kenlee Schomaker and his wife, Jane, both members of the fire department's emergency medical unit, were called to their neighbor's house shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday. The couple also knew Dustin Wehde and his family. "There was a lot of blood and spent shell casings," Kenlee Schomaker said. "I have no idea what (Tracey Roberts) went through. She had to go through hell to be scared like that." Bruce Wehde wonders if his nephew was tragically in the wrong place at the wrong time. "I think he walked in on something going on in the house. I think Dustin was coming to the rescue," Wehde said. In the darkness and confusion, "he ended up getting shot for mistaken reasons." Dustin Wehde's funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Early Methodist Church. Reward offered INFORMATION: Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Michael Roberts at this e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. People can also contact the Sac County Sheriff's Department at (712) 662-7127 or the Early Police Department at (712) 273-5283. DESCRIPTION: The intruder who fled was described as 25 to 35 years old, almost 6 feet tall, with a slender build and dark, wavy hair.