CRIME

Is Tracey Roberts heroic mom or a shrewd killer?

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EARLY, Iowa (AP) - Something shocking happened one cold night a decade ago in this quiet country town of 500 people, but even now, just one fact about it all is undisputed:

Tracey Roberts (Photo: Associated Press)

Tracey Roberts, at home with her three children, fired 9 shots from two guns into her 20-year-old neighbor, leaving him dead on the floor of her bedroom.

Tall and thin with curly brown hair and blue eyes, she was 35 at the time. It wasn't long before her image appeared in newspaper coverage of the shooting and even on a national TV talk show, where she was celebrated as a heroic mother who acted in self-defense to protect herself and her young children from men who broke into her home and assaulted her.

But today, folks in Early are weighing a contradictory view and a slew of questions: Could she be a master manipulator who planned the killing and concocted an elaborate hoax that let her get away with murder? What exactly is written in the pink journal that police found, and does it show she was justified, or that she's guilty?

This is the story of a case that baffled investigators and stalled for years. Of an agent whose work resurrected the case and a rookie prosecutor who became obsessed with it. Of the quiet young man whose death ripped apart his family. Of townspeople who panicked after the shooting but soon suspected the official account did not add up.

Above all, it is the story of a woman who left a trail of deceit from Chicago to Nebraska and has a history of making sensational allegations that are never proven.

She insists she is telling the truth.

In a trial starting Tuesday, jurors will decide whom to believe.

***

It was a Thursday evening, Dec. 13, 2001, and Kenlee Schomaker and his wife Jane, emergency medical technicians for the volunteer fire department, were sitting in their Early home when the pager went off.

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