A Sauk County judge ruled Thursday that a homicide case against a Richland Center woman will proceed after her attorney argued that her actions were taken in self-defense.
Amber Lundgren, 35, faces a single charge of felony first-degree intentional homicide in the September shooting death of 37-year-old Christopher Lytle of Westfield.
“If what happened here was self-defense, there was no crime,” Andrew Martinez said to an objection over his questions about Lundgren’s statement to detectives. “Whether Ms. Lundgren’s actions were motivated by the desire to defend herself is relevant to whether or not there was a crime.”
Detective Drew Bulin of the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office testified about Sept. 22, the day he assisted on the call that a dead body was found in a turnaround area along the gravel-topped North Hein Road near Levee Road in the town of Fairfield.
Martinez asked Bulin to verify whether Lundgren described defending herself against sexual advances prior to the shooting.
District Attorney Michael Albrecht argued that Martinez’s questions should be delivered to a jury, not during Thursday’s preliminary hearing at the Sauk County Courthouse for the judge to determine whether the case should proceed to trial.
“A self-defense argument concedes probable cause for the underlying charge,” Albrecht said.
An autopsy by a forensic pathologist through the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison found that Lytle had died as the result of two gunshot wounds; one to the back of the head and another to the back of the neck at close range, Bulin said.
Lundgren was located through a tip to authorities. Security workers at the Ho-Chunk casino notified detectives that footage showed Lytle getting into a white vehicle around 7 p.m. Sept. 21. Investigators located Lundgren through the license plate number on her vehicle.
When detectives spoke to her at her workplace, Lundgren initially denied having met with Lytle and that she had not seen him since about a decade ago, when the pair had casually dated. After questioning, Lundgren told detectives that she had been exchanging text messages with Lytle for about a month. When she picked him up, Lundgren told detectives Lytle quickly suggested the two “get high” and began rubbing his hands along her legs as she drove.
According to the criminal complaint, Lundgren told investigators when she rebuffed his sexual advances, Lytle “slapped me around” and exited the vehicle in anger as she stopped on North Hein Road. Lundgren then said Lytle circled the vehicle and pulled her out of the driver’s side door, pushing her down on the ground and attempted to place his body on top of hers.
Investigators noted in the complaint that Lundgren said she kicked out at Lytle, which allowed her to get away from him and reach for a .38 caliber handgun she keeps in her purse.
Bulin said Lundgren admitted shooting Lytle, noting that “during the interview she told us she could have double-tapped.” The first shot was from the driver’s seat of the car with her legs outside of the vehicle while Lytle was on his knees in the road facing away from Lundgren. The second she “had repositioned herself for the second shot. She was partially standing outside her vehicle and described she was bracing herself against a portion of her vehicle, leaned over the top of Mr. Lytle, who was lying face down on the ground, prior to firing the second shot,” Bulin said.
Lundgren sat silent during the testimony, dabbing at her face with tissues.
“The defendant admitting to shooting him twice in the back while he was on his knees facing away from her,” Albrecht said. “I think any self-defense claim is suspect regardless given the physical evidence, but self-defense, again, essentially concedes there is probable cause for the underlying offense, which is first-degree intentional homicide.”
Sauk County Judge Patricia Barrett ruled that prosecutors made a case for probable cause for the felony charge. Lundgren has been held on a $500,000 cash bond since being arrested in early October, which Barrett said should continue despite Martinez’s objection.
Lundgren is scheduled to return to court for an arraignment Feb. 21. The arraignment is when the court formally presents charges and the defendant must enter a plea.
Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.
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