Judge: Man guilty of killing wife in coffee pot dispute
A Lake County judge ruled Wednesday that the 69-year-old Barrington man who shot at his wife four times during a dispute that began over a coffee pot is guilty of second-degree murder.
Judge Daniel Shanes dismissed testimony that Larry Lotz was in a dissociative state in 2016 when he fired his .45-caliber revolver and killed his wife, Karen.
"He made a series of deliberate, conscious acts," Shanes said, noting how Larry Lotz needed to pull back the hammer on the gun between each shot. "Conscious acts fueled by alcohol and anger, but nonetheless deliberate ones."
After Shanes made his ruling, he revoked Lotz's bond. Lotz will be in the Lake County jail until a sentencing hearing Oct. 4. He could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, with probation an option.
Shanes said the argument that led to the Jan. 14, 2016, shooting began when Karen Lotz confronted her husband because he'd left a coffee pot on all day. The dispute became physical when Larry tried to retreat and Karen Lotz grabbed him. Larry took the coffee pot outside and smashed, then retreated to a second-floor room in the garage he called his "man cave."
When Karen climbed the stairs to the room, something she hardly ever did, Larry shot her four times.
"This case started over what most married couples would call a stupid argument," Shanes said. "The argument should have stopped, but tragically it did not."
Shanes said of all the evidence presented during the trial -- which ran seven days over the course of two months and featured more than 20 witnesses -- perhaps the most objective was what was collected at the crime scene and during Lotz's police interview hours later.
Immediately after shooting Karen, Larry Lotz emptied the other bullets from the gun, called 911 and told the dispatcher he'd shot his wife.
"All the while he is obviously hysterical on the phone, but there is a clear thought process going on," Shanes said.
When Barrington police asked Lotz why he'd shot his wife, Lotz said he didn't know but admitted to being angry.
Shanes said he didn't believe the murder was premeditated. "He did not think he'd be killing his wife when he went to the man cave," Shanes said. "It was an act for which he almost immediately felt remorse and horror."
Lotz opted for a bench trial, so no jury decided his fate.
Doctors hired by Lotz's attorney Robert Hauser testified that they believed Lotz was having a dissociative episode brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder from his service during the Vietnam War. Prosecutors, meanwhile, argued that Lotz murdered his wife as part of a "tantrum."
Lotz chose not to take the stand during the trial.
Hauser said he thinks the judge should have found his client not guilty by reason of insanity.
"I think it is a heck of a lot better than 45 years," Hauser said of the second-degree murder verdict, referring to the minimum sentence Lotz likely would be facing had Shanes found him guilty of first-degree murder.
Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim said his office believed the facts supported a conviction of first-degree murder, but added he respected the judge's decision.