Trial Begins for Washington Man Accused of Killing Wife

WASHINGTON, Iowa - James Blum called 911 Jan. 11, 2010 and calmly told the operator "I just killed my wife" and said "I won't cause no trouble."

Michael Powers, 911 operator with the Washington County Communications Center, testified Wednesday in Washington County District Court that Blum's demeanor was "straight forward" when he stated the reason for his call but later he became emotional and started crying.

The 911 recording was played for jurors in the second-degree murder trial for Blum, 71, of Wellman. Blum, a former Wellman City Council member, is accused of killing his wife Patricia, 67, by holding her head down into sofa cushions and smothering her until she quit breathing.

The trial started Tuesday and is expected to last the rest of the week.

Portions of the tape were garbled and difficult to hear when Blum began crying but before that point he told Powers he thought he killed Patricia but didn't know how. He mentions she was lying on the sofa and he possibly fell down and said he doesn't know if he smothered her or what.

Assistant Attorney General Denise Timmins, who is one of the prosecutor's, said in her opening statement that Blum chose to end Patricia's life that day during an argument. The fight escalated when she decided to leave and backed the car into the garage door. That's when Blum held her head down for minutes into the cushions, Timmins said.

"He (Blum) waited until she stopped struggling and breathing before he let go of her head," Timmins said. "He told (police) he waited about half an hour before he called 911."

When police arrived, Blum told them they had argued and Patricia ran the car into the garage door, Timmins said. Blum said he went outside to fix the door and when he returned she was on the floor with a black eye. He didn't know what happened.

Timmins said he then confessed to police "I smothered her. I hoped she was dead."

Thomas Diehl, one of Blum's attorneys from Iowa City, said in his opening this case is about emotion, intention and suggestion.

Diehl said Blum is a "salt of the earth Washington County guy" who was a victim of domestic abuse -psychological abuse from his wife. He married her about six years ago and they went through all his retirement and were struggling financially, living on Social Security.

"All Blum wanted to do (that day) was quiet her down," Diehl said. "She was always hammering at him – telling him he's a bad person."

Diehl said there was no traumatic injuries to Patricia's body and nobody knows how she died. He asked the jurors to pay attention to the medical evidence, which was lacking.

Diehl said Blum didn't really answer the sergeant's questions in the interview. The police put the circumstances or suggestions in Blum's mouth. Blum would say "if you say so" to some of the questions.

"Listen to his responses (in interview)," Diehl said. "He (sergeant) was trying to get him to say he planned this and he wanted to get rid of her."
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