Wife Says Her Husband Shot Her Girlfriend When She Threatened to Leave Him
By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Amanda Weldon in emotional testimony Wednesday said she and her husband Tonch had an open marriage but he became upset when she grew closer to a woman who was one of their mutual sexual partners and they eventually excluded him more and more.
Amanda Weldon, 35, of Blairstown, said husband Tonch Weldon encouraged her to have a relationship with Amy Gephart. He planned an intimate night for them on Amanda's birthday in 2009, which led to Gephart moving in and several months later to Tonch shooting Gephart and himself.
"I grew to love her," Amanda said at times crying throughout her testimony. "We fell in love with each other. She made me happy."
Tonch Weldon, 39, of Blairstown, charged with first-degree murder, is accused of shooting Gephart, 35, with a 20-gauge shotgun before turning the gun on himself June 7, 2009. Gephart died from one shot to the chest and Tonch suffered serious injuries to his face and jaw area. Gephart lived with the Weldons and their two children at the time.
Opening statements and two witnesses testified Wednesday after 1-½ days of jury selection. The prosecution continues its case Thursday in Iowa County District Court. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
Reporter Trish Mehaffey continues her live blog from the courtroom Thursday. Readers/viewers can follow along and ask questions and provide comments.
Amanda Weldon said she talked to Tonch about her feelings for Gephart more than once and told him she thought about leaving him about a month before the shooting. They always argued about it because Tonch didn't want them to leave him.
They argued at a party a week before the shooting when Amanda told him she had decided to leave, she said. Then, she and Gephart and the children left June 6, 2009 to see her sister and when they came back, Tonch had some friends over and they were drinking but he wanted to talk about their relationship.
She said Tonch wasn't intoxicated that day. He had been drinking but wasn't slurring his words or falling down. He drank alcohol on a daily basis, usually 3 beers to a 12-pack, depending on the day, she said.
After the friends left, she and Tonch talked in their shop, away from Gephart and the children who were in the house, Amanda Weldon said.
"He pleaded with me not to leave," Amanda Weldon said. "I said me and Amy may move into the camper. It wasn't a heated argument but I landed up getting irate."
Tonch Weldon then left, going up to the house but when she got to the house he had locked door with Gephart inside. She tapped on the window and asked Gephart to let her in. Tonch appeared to say through the glass "Good. I want you to see this" and let her climb through a window.
"I asked Amy what was going on but before she could speak Tonch came into the room with a shotgun," she said.
Amanda Weldon, softly crying said she recognized the shotgun. Tonch gave it to her their first Christmas together 15 years ago. They both are avid hunters.
She attempted to get the gun away from Tonch and pleaded with him not to do anything, Amanda Weldon said. Tonch then told her "You can't have either one of us," as he shoved her back on the coffee table and fired the gun at Gephart.
"She had a hole in her chest," Amanda Weldon said crying. "I tried to stop the bleeding."
Amanda Weldon then heard another gunshot and when she turned around she saw Tonch "without a jaw" and blood all over him. She went to get a phone to call 911 and Tonch got up and tried to shoot himself again. She was talking with a 911 operator when she was struggling to get the gun away from him as he tried a third time to shoot himself. Amanda finally got it away from him and threw it away from them.
The 911 tape was played for the jury and it sounded like there was a struggle going on during the call and Amanda Weldon was hysterically screaming and crying throughout the call. The 911 operator had to repeatedly ask her to calm down and go over details of what had happened. At times, it was difficult to understand Amanda on the call.
Edward Leff, Tonch Weldon's attorney, asked Amanda if Tonch was a good husband, father, faithful friend and a good worker and provider for their family.
Amanda said he was all those things. He wanted to continue their marriage and their relationship with Gephart.
Leff asked her if she was having a sexual relationship with Tonch and Gephart leading up to this day.
Amanda said yes. They were still all sleeping together.
Leff said in his opening Tonch didn't act willfully that day. The shooting wasn't premeditated, "he just snapped at that moment." It's a tragedy for all of them, he said.
Tonch was under some stress because he had recently put his grandfather, who was close to him, in a nursing care center and hadn't had much sleep, Leff said. He was intoxicated that day and had been taking an anxiety medication.