SKOWHEGAN (AP) – A judge on Friday returned a guilty verdict in the murder trial of a Waterville man who fatally shot his estranged wife while their two children were present.

Richard Reynolds, 42, testified in his own defense in Somerset County Superior Court that the shooting of Rhonda Wakefield-Reynolds was an accident. He said he intended to kill himself in his wife’s presence but that he flinched and the gun fired when he heard their two children outside the bedroom.

Justice Andrew Horton, who was hearing the case without a jury, was unmoved by Reynold’s testimony Thursday. On Friday, after closing arguments, the judge found Reynolds guilty of murder. “There’s no question in my mind that Mr. Reynolds knew what he was doing and that his actions would result in the death of Ms. Wakefield-Reynolds,” Horton said.

Reynolds shot his estranged wife in the head on Jan. 12, 2007, on the day she planned to file for divorce. He tracked her down at her brother’s home, where she had been living.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea contended the shooting was no accident because Reynolds spent 15 years in the military and knew how to use a weapon.

But defense lawyer Peter Barnett insisted it wasn’t murder. He attempted to show that his client loved his wife and had intended to shoot himself after losing custody of the couple’s two children.

On the witness stand, Reynolds wept Thursday as he recounted the events that unfolded. “It wasn’t supposed to be my wife that got hurt,” he said. “I was.” Reynolds said he was devastated when his marriage fell apart and that he had made a halfhearted suicide threat on Christmas Eve 2006. After that incident, he surrendered three guns to his son Robert Brenner, yet still entertained suicidal thoughts, he said.

Before the shooting, Reynolds went to the home of his older son from a previous marriage and demanded his handgun, a semiautomatic .40-caliber pistol.

Reynolds faces 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced.

Before the judge’s decision, Reynolds told reporters Friday that he had training with firearms in the military and did not intend to kill his wife.

“If I wanted to kill somebody as small as my wife, I could have done it with my hands,” he said. “The only person I needed a gun to kill was myself.”


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