CRIME

Is Tracey Roberts heroic mom or a shrewd killer?

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Ben Smith had left his job as a young lawyer for the attorney general's office and moved home with his parents months earlier to run for county attorney. A former running back at nearby Buena Vista University, he won handily. Now, taking office, he was inexperienced and swamped with work.
On his second day, DCI Special Agent Trent Vileta stopped by to welcome him - but added, "I want to tell you about this one case."

Tracey Roberts (Photo: Associated Press)

Vileta, a former Milwaukee police officer, had been assigned to take a fresh look at Wehde's death in 2008. He had gone through the evidence, re-interviewed those involved, re-read Tracey's statements, traded emails with her.

He'd helped bring in an expert on blood splatters who concluded the last three shots went through the back of Dustin's head while he was face down on the ground.

Smith remembered hearing reports about Wehde's death when he was in college, and thinking: "Stupid kids. That's what happens when you break into a home." He hadn't thought about the case since and told Vileta he needed time to settle into his new job before he could.

But the agent wouldn't let it go. He'd send Smith photos of the crime scene to pique his interest. After hours, they'd spend time playing "Call of Duty," the prosecutor's favorite video game. Finally, Smith promised he'd spend a weekend reviewing the case - and he was immediately hooked.

Working late nights and weekends, he went through years of files, putting together what he would later call 10 years of motive for the shooting and 10 years of twists and turns since.

The effort was exhausting. Smith's mother told him attending church would be a stress reliever. But there, a reading from Jeremiah instead gave him goosebumps. "To you I have entrusted my cause," the biblical passage began - but the reader said "case" instead. "For he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked."

Within months, Smith would file a first-degree murder charge against Tracey, who now goes by her maiden name of Richter.

***

The criminal complaint cited a key piece of evidence found by investigators in Dustin's car. After months of speculation in town, prosecutors revealed this month it was a pink spiral notebook that claimed to be his diary.

In Dustin's sloppy handwriting, it suggested he had been hired as a hitman by a "mysterious fellow" named John Pitman III, who was Tracey's first husband.

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