Originally created 05/05/02

Suspect calls slaying 'accident'



BRUNSWICK, Ga. - William David Tatro told jurors in his murder trial that he accidentally shot his wife and then made the mistakes of burying her in their yard and trying to make it appear she was missing.

In his five hours on the witness stand Friday, Mr. Tatro, 53, acknowledged that he had done much of what police said he had done. He shot his 53-year-old wife, Yuki, in the head Sept. 30, 2000, drove her car to a grocery store and went for drinks at his favorite bar before returning home and using a neighbor's backhoe to bury her in a corner of their yard, Mr. Tatro said.

He said he never intended to shoot his wife. Mr. Tatro admitted he was guilty of concealing his wife's death and lying to police but denied intentionally killing her.

At the time of the shooting, he was trying to show his wife the gun he had bought recently for her protection when it went off accidentally, Mr. Tatro testified before the nine-man, three-woman jury.

As he approached his seated wife from behind, "I was going to say, 'Hey, honey,' or 'Hi, honey, I want to show you something.' I got out 'Hi, honey,"' Mr. Tatro said.

He said he had apparently pulled the trigger as he inserted a seven-shot magazine into the weapon and it fired at that instant, striking his wife.

"It scared me. I looked up to see what her reaction was," Mr. Tatro said, as he began crying again. "Her head was slumped over and blood was pouring out."

He went to her, found she was dead and, instead of dialing 911, made the decision to stage her disappearance, partly because both of his children were already angry over an affair he had with a California woman he had met on the Internet and later visited, he said.

Asked why he chose to bury her in the corner of their yard, Mr. Tatro said: "Well, it was a garden area. Those flowers were all hers."

Although he spoke almost tenderly of taking his wife in his arms to bury her, Mr. Tatro seldom called her by name and several times referred to her as "the woman," especially as he spoke of their relationship before his affair.

When Assistant District Attorney Keith Higgins asked during cross-examination how Mr. Tatro could accidentally shoot his wife "dead center in the back of the head," the defendant said he didn't know.

"It was a coincidence?" Mr. Higgins said.

"Yes. That's exactly what it was," Mr. Tatro said.