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Appleton man says death of wife was accident

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GLENWOOD -- Andrew Lemcke took the stand in his own defense Monday to tell a Pope County jury his account of how his wife was fatally shot around 6:36 a.m. Sept. 12, 2004, in their Appleton home.

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Lemcke, 35, faces charges of first-degree premeditated murder and se-cond-deg-ree intentional murder in the death of Nichole Riley-Lemcke, 26.

Lemcke described the shooting as accidental. He said that his wife came home sometime after 4:09 a.m.

That was the time he said he left a message on her cell phone offering to pick her up and telling her he loved her.

Lemcke said he fell asleep after making the call, but woke up when his wife returned.

They had a brief conversation about her scuffle with a friend earlier that night, and their own exchange of words during a send-off event for the National Guard they had attended. He said his wife looked very tired, and complained of a sore back and asked if she could sleep on the longer of the two couches in the living room. Lemcke said he went back to sleep on the shorter couch.

"I heard a loud boom," he testified. "I looked at my wife, and I was trying to figure out what was going on."

According to his testimony, Nichole Lemcke had fired a .40-caliber handgun and was now pointing it in his direction. "She looked scared and angry."

He said she asked about the kids, expressed fears about her former boyfriend and the father of one of the children, and was swearing with the gun in front of her.

Lemcke said he grabbed the gun with his left hand, she twisted backward and she fell on the couch and on her back. He landed atop her.

"I heard the gun go off again," he said.

The bullet went through the bottom of her chin and exited at the top of her scalp. Lemcke maintained that he had only his hand on her arm -- just below the wrist -- and that she held the handgun when it discharged.

Testimony presented earlier by the Ramsey County medical examiner indicated that the gun was oriented with the top barrel sight up to the chin and the handle downward toward the chest.

Evidence presented during the testimony Monday indicated that phone calls were made from the Lemcke household phone beginning at 4:23 a.m. One call went to a cell phone listed to Nichole Lemcke's lover, with whom she had sex shortly before returning home. There was no indication it was answered.

Another call went to the lover's wife.

Three other calls made in quick succession are listed by phone records as having been made to the phone of a friend of Nichole Lemcke's, but apparently not answered.

The wife of her lover had testified that Andrew Lemcke had called her cell phone after 4 a.m. and asked if her husband was there. Lemcke denied making that call in Monday's testimony. He said he had made none of the calls and was not aware they had been made.

He also denied that he had made statements to people who had testified that he and his wife argued after she returned that morning.

Lemcke said he still has difficulty recalling some of the exact details of that morning. "I'm trying to recall an event I could not understand. I'm still trying to this day. I don't know what happened," he said in response to prosecutor Al Zdrazil's questions about details.

Zdrazil, a prosecutor with the Minnesota Attorney General's office, asked Lemcke if they had argued about her cheating on him. Zdrazil asked Lemcke if he didn't know about the phone calls beginning at 4:23 a.m. because he had stomped out of the house and went to his parents to get the gun and come back and kill his wife.

"That's a negative, sir," Lemcke said in response.

Defense attorney Jim Fleming rested the defense's case with Lemcke's testimony. Final rebuttal testimony and arguments must still be presented to the jury. It could begin its deliberations today or Wednesday.

Lemcke was indicted on the charges by a Swift County grand jury in November 2008. The trial was moved to Pope County and began there Feb. 22.

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