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Man who killed wife contests parole decision

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A former Pierce County man who shot his wife to death in front of their teenage son and a domestic abuse agency worker 21 years ago wants out of prison.

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Richard John Kusch, 65, who was sentenced to a life term in May 1987, claims his conduct during two decades as an inmate has been exemplary. He has filed a civil case asking Judge Robert Wing to review a State Parole Commission decision delaying any further parole consideration for 18 months.

Kusch, acting as his own attorney, claims the length of the parole deferral is "arbitrary and capricious," and in violation of his right to due process.

His request for review alleges the reasons Parole Commissioner Steven Landreman gave in concluding Kusch hasn't served "sufficient time for punishment" are arbitrary. Kusch also claims Landreman's decision was "nebulous" because it says "more time is warranted" and "eventual transition through reduced security," but doesn't give guidance or explain what those phrases mean.

Kusch is currently a prisoner at Racine Correctional Institution, Sturtevant.

In May 1987, Judge Wing sentenced Kusch to prison after he was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting his wife in front of their son and an employee of Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Abuse.

In April of this year, Kusch was interviewed by Landreman, who recommended deferring further parole consideration until at least December 2009.

In May 1987, a jury found Kusch guilty of killing his wife Patricia, 44, in the kitchen of their Prescott home on Feb. 11 of that year. The shooting occurred an hour after the two had attended a divorce hearing in River Falls.

During that hearing before Court Commissioner Edward Vlack, Patricia was given temporary custody of the couple's children and use of the family home in Prescott. According to information in the original criminal complaint, Kusch became "increasingly angry and upset" during the hearing and refused to sign a wage assignment.

Following the hearing, Patricia went to her home with her 17-year-old son and Turningpoint advocate Ramona DeSmith. Kusch had arrived at the home ahead of them.

According to the complaint, Kusch confronted his wife, accused her of ruining his life and "shot five rounds into her."

Kusch pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, but the jury found him guilty of first-degree murder.

In a letter to Judge Wing after the trial, Kusch claimed prescription drugs made him "more reactive" at the time of the shooting.

"I am not responsible for this criminal act, and I had no capacity or reason to commit it," he wrote.

Kusch, who had worked for an airline, claimed he was intoxicated at the time of the shooting, that he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and that he was being treated with Dalmane, a type of sleeping medication.

In an appeal filed in 1994, Kusch claimed the prosecution withheld evidence of "involuntary intoxication."

That same year, Kusch filed a medical malpractice claim against two River Falls doctors who treated him before the incident. The District III Court of Appeals upheld Judge Dane Morey's ruling to dismiss that case because Kusch had "failed to prosecute" his lawsuit by failing to find expert witnesses to substantiate his claim of malpractice.

In the 1994 appeal, Kusch argued he had no obligation to obtain expert witnesses, but the court should have appointed expert witnesses at public expense. The appeals court ruled the county court had no obligation to provide expert witnesses to make Kusch's case.

State law, the opinion said, doesn't set up a fund "that any civil litigant may tap for expert witness costs."

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