Jury Delibarations Underway in Tonch Weldon Murder Case

By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter

Tonch Weldon, 39, of Blairstown, Iowa, watches as family and friends file out of the courtroom during his first-degree murder trial at the Iowa County Courthouse on Tuesday, July 19, 2011, in Marengo, Iowa. Weldon is accused of shooting and killing 35-year-old Amy Gephart, who was living with him and his family in 2009. (SourceMedia Group News/Jim Slosiarek)

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By James Steward

MARENGO, Iowa – Closing arguments have concluded in the murder trial of Tonch Weldon. Weldon is accused of shooting Amy Gephart in June 2010. Jury deliberations began at 1:30 this afternoon.

A forensic toxicologist testified Tuesday alcohol impedes a person’s ability to plan and organize, affects physical and mental abilities, the way a person interacts with others and a person can make a “snap judgment” under the influence.

Michael Rehburg, a former Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation criminalist and supervisor, testified Tonch Weldon’s blood alcohol level was between 0.17 and 0.23 at the time he shot Amy Gephart once in the chest with a 20-gauge shotgun. He said this was an “extremely” high level and most people couldn’t “operate in a credible way.”

The defense claims Weldon, 39, of Blairstown, just “snapped” at the moment he shot Gephart, 35, and then turned the gun on himself at his home June 7, 2010. There was no premeditation or planning of his actions, he was intoxicated at the time and there is evidence that he loved Gephart, according to the defense.

Amanda Weldon testified last week that she and Tonch Weldon had an open marriage with Gephart as their sexual partner until the two women fell in love. Tonch Weldon then shot Gephart when he learned the women were going to leave him, she said.

The defense wrapped up its case Tuesday afternoon and closing arguments concluded Wednesday in Iowa County District Court. The trial started a week ago.

Rehburg, of West Des Moines, said lack of sleep would aggravate any reaction to drugs or alcohol and taking a drug like Xanax with alcohol would have a greater affect upon a person.

Weldon was sleep deprived and taking Xanax at the time of the shooting, Edward Leff, Weldon’s attorney, said in his opening statement.

Assistant Attorney General Denise Timmins asked Rehburg if a person could make choices under the influence and isn’t a person responsible for those choices or actions?

Rehburg said yes to both.

Dr. Michael Taylor, a medical doctor and psychiatrist in Des Moines, testified on rebuttal that Tonch Weldon was able to deliberate, premeditate and form specific intent to kill Gephart. Tonch Weldon had consumed alcohol but not more than he normally drank.

Taylor said he made his opinion based on what Amanda Weldon said about the events that day. Her husband locked the door with Gephart inside.

“He selected his victims (Gephart and himself),” Taylor said. “He didn’t hurt his wife or son. He formed a plan, keeping them outside.”

Taylor said Tonch Weldon was able to struggle with his wife over the gun. He was coordinated and strong enough to know what he was doing. Tonch Weldon even explained his motive by telling Amanda she couldn’t have either one of them before he fired the gun.

Taylor concluded that alcohol didn’t impede his ability to deliberate or form specific intent.

In other testimony, a videotape was shown of Weldon the day after the shooting when he was in the hospital. He just awoke and an investigator was attempting to get a statement from him. He seemed confused about what happened and was worried and upset about his children and Amanda. He couldn’t talk because of his facial injury but wrote notes to the investigator and his parents.

The interview stopped when Weldon asked for an attorney.

Some of Weldon’s friends also testified about his character. They said he was a honest and caring man who would go out of way for his family or friends. He wasn’t violent and they thought he and Amanda had a good relationship.
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