Estranged husband gets 40 years in prison for murder of wife

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Court, gavel, trialEL CAJON, Calif. — A man who shot his estranged wife to death in his Alpine home two days before Christmas 2011 was sentenced in El Cajon Thursday to 40 years to life in state prison.

Justin Meltzer, 44, pleaded guilty in April to second-degree murder and admitted a gun allegation.

According to court testimony, a friend said 40-year-old Deborah Meltzer had taken her two young sons to see their father on Dec. 23, 2011. The children were at a neighbor’s house when the gunfire erupted.

At today’s sentencing, Deborah Meltzer’s stepfather, William Hutchins, addressed Justin Meltzer, calling him a “coward” and telling him he took her sons’ mother away from them.

“They hate you for what you did to their mother,” Hutchins said of the boys, now 14 and 10 years old.

The victim’s stepmother, Terry Clark, told the defendant that he was an “embarrassment” to to the family.

“She (Deborah Meltzer) was an amazing, special person,” Clark said. “Our nightmare has no end.”

The Meltzers were in the process of getting a divorce when Deborah was killed, according to Deputy District Attorney Chantal de Mauregne.

At Meltzer’s arraignment, prosecutor Carlos Campbell told a judge that a man running down the street about 5:45 p.m. saw the defendant with the victim outside the defendant’s home on Larkspur Drive.

The witness said the victim was handcuffed, with a dog leash attached to the cuffs, and was yelling, “Help me. He’s got a gun, He’s going to kill me,” according to the prosecutor.

One of Justin Meltzer’s neighbors, Kenneth Mohler, testified at a preliminary hearing that he was watching television about 6:30 p.m. when his wife told him that “something was wrong at Justin’s home.”

A fire alarm was going off and Mohler said he went up to the front door, and Deborah Meltzer pushed open a security door and took his hand.

Mohler said Justin Meltzer, who was holding his ex-wife by the leash, was disoriented and mumbling during the four to five minutes Mohler talked to him.

As Mohler talked to the Meltzers, a shot rang out, sending shrapnel into Mohler’s face.

The defendant yanked the victim back into the home and several more shots rang out, Mohler said.

Sheriff’s Deputy Cliff Laplant, the first officer to arrive at the scene, said he shot at the defendant with his rifle when Meltzer yelled that he had made up his mind what he was going to do.

Deputies who went inside found a 9mm gun emptied out next to the defendant, who was lying next to a dead Deborah Meltzer with a gunshot wound to a leg. The victim was shot in the back, receiving eight gunshots in all, de Mauregne said.

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