Is Tracey Roberts heroic mom or a shrewd killer?
Her retelling of the ordeal crackled with drama: With her husband on a business trip, she was home with her three children - Bert, 3-year-old Noah and 1-year-old Mason - when Wehde and another man barged through her unlocked door.
One of the men choked her with panty hose that had been hanging from the staircase. She lost her glasses and blacked out. She woke to the sound of Bert screaming; he was holding a baseball bat to protect his younger siblings.
Roberts continued: She ran to the bedroom and reached for the gun safe. Wehde tugged at her hair and yanked on her feet. When the safe opened, she grabbed a 9 mm handgun and pulled the trigger. Nothing. The safety was on. She groped, unlocked it, then fired. Most of the shots hit.
Next, she said, she grabbed a revolver from the safe. She spotted Wehde trying to get up and fired that gun at him. His movement stopped. The second man fled the house (She would later explain she was mistaken when she initially told a deputy two men had gotten away).
Bert dialed 911.
"TRACEY ROBERTS TELLS HER STORY," was the Dec. 19 headline.
Subheads added: "Strangled with panty hose, she warded off attackers to protect her children," and "'You're next,' intruder tells boy." The Times published a picture of her apparently bruised neck, which was checked out at a hospital.
TV personality Montel Williams invited Roberts to tell the story to a national audience.
Before the cameras, she and husband Michael held hands as she calmly spoke: "I did what I had to do to protect my family."
Applauding, Williams called her actions justifiable homicide.
An investigation by the Sac County Sheriff's Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation remained open but no second intruder was ever found and no charges were filed as of late 2002.
On Thanksgiving Day, Dustin's father, Brett Wehde, took a walk through the cemetery where his son was buried alongside relatives, his marble headstone emblazoned with engravings of his interests - a snowmobile, a golf cart, a computer - and inscribed, "Brett and Mona's beloved son."
After Dustin was killed, Brett and Mona broke up and filed for divorce. Brett was distraught over the crumbling of his family. At the graveside, he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
The suicide of the well-known Brett hit Early hard.
Mona wanted answers. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit attempting to hold Tracey Roberts accountable for Dustin's death and to learn what happened that night. Why had Roberts really killed Dustin?
Her attorney picked up on inconsistencies in Roberts' story as she told and retold it. In one account, she knew it was Dustin pulling at her legs; in another, she did not find out the victim's identity until later. In different accounts, she fired from different positions.
In the end, Mona Wehde dropped the lawsuit just days before trial. State lawyers argued the planned testimony of a DCI agent could hamper the investigation.
But what investigation? Though never closed, it seemed to go nowhere. And years passed.
In January 2011, Sac County had a new prosecutor.
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