MURDER DEFENDANT Steven Howard Mittleman and his attorney, Bob Banning, confer before Judge Proud enters the chambers and the guilty verdict is read. Village Life photo by Shelly Thorene

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Guilty: Mittelman convicted of first-degree murder

By September 29, 2011

Steven Howard Mittelman was convicted of the June 2010 first-degree murder of ex-wife Valerie Rita Mittelman Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after jurors began their deliberations.

A jury of six men and six women found Mittelman, 56, guilty of murdering his ex with a single gunshot to the head on the evening June 17, 2010.

During the course of the trial, El Dorado County deputy district attorney Joe Alexander told jurors that Mittelman and Valerie had entered into a drunken argument that resulted in the defendant fatally shooting his ex-wife.

Bob Banning, Mittelman’s public defender, claimed Valerie provoked her ex-husband into shooting her by bragging about an abortion she had when the two were still together.

According to Banning, the killing was an act of voluntary manslaughter.

On Thursday, jurors returned with a guilty verdict after deliberating for only a handful of hours.

Several special allegations against Mittelman were also found true.

As the verdict was read, Mittelman did not appear to show much emotion.

Banning, Mittelman’s attorney, asked that each juror be polled individually. During the poll, Mittelman turned in his chair at the defense table to look at the jurors.

After Thursday’s hearing, prosecutor Joe Alexander expressed his gratitude to the jurors.

“I’m very pleased with the verdict and the jury’s hard work,” he told the Mountain Democrat.

Jurors approached by the Democrat declined to comment on the trial.

Bob Banning, Mittelman’s public defender, also declined to comment.

The jury trial, which lasted less than two weeks, featured testimony from Mittelman himself, as well as his second wife, Gail.

Mittelman told jurors that he was sent into a blind rage by his ex-wife, who said she was glad she chose to have an abortion in 1979, while they were still a couple.

Mittelman testified that he was so devastated by Valerie’s comments that contemplated suicide before turning his gun on his ex-wife.

Prosecutors, though, claimed it was more than a hurtful remark that prompted the killing.

Alexander said Mittelman had entered into a blossoming relationship with a third woman — an old girlfriend — behind Gail’s back.

Valerie, Alexander said, disapproved of Mittelman’s behavior and was threatening to tell Gail of her husband’s alleged infidelity.

The third woman, Judy Fuellenbach of Modesto, was also called to testify during the trial. Fuellenbach said that the relationship she and Mittelman rekindled was platonic but that he expressed interest in having a romantic one.

Mittelman, according to Fuellenbach, was stressed over living with Gail and Valerie and that he simply needed a friend to talk to.

In the minutes following Valerie’s death, Mittelman admitted to crafting a lie in order to deflect suspicion away from him.

Mittelman told a 911 dispatcher that Valerie accidentally shot herself during an argument.

Deputies arrived and quickly detained Mittelman at his El Dorado Hills apartment.

Hours after Valerie’s body was found, Mittelman then told investigators that the two were struggling over control of the gun and that he mistakenly squeezed the trigger, killing her instantly.

But several days later, Mittelman admitted that he intentionally shot Valerie but that he could not remember why.

Judgement and sentencing was set for Oct. 28 by Superior Court Judge Daniel B. Proud.

He faces a sentence of 50 years to life in prison.

E-mail Jim Ratajczak at [email protected] or call 530-344-5069.

Jim Ratajczak


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