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Mittelman trial: Ex-wife’s slaying manslaughter, attorney says

By September 28, 2011

Steven Howard Mittelman always wanted to be a father.

Wife Valerie, already with children from a previous relationship, was against the idea of starting a family with a husband eight years her junior.

Only several years after the fact did Mittelman learn that Valerie, in 1979, had an abortion while they were still a couple.

The marriage of more than 20 years eventually crumbled. Mittelman was left alone and childless.

By June 2010, though, Mittelman had remarried and was now looking forward to what he thought was the next best thing: Becoming a grandfather.

But any joy Mittelman should have felt over the birth of his second wife’s grandchild was stolen by a drunken, bitter ex-wife, said Bob Banning, Mittelman’s public defender, during his opening statement Tuesday.

According to the attorney, Valerie broke her ex-husband’s spirit by telling Mittelman that he would make a terrible grandfather because he never had children of his own.

But she was not done there.

“Valerie told Steven that she was happy that she aborted his child,” said Banning.

It was the last straw.

So in a fit of blind, suicidal rage, Mittelman shot and killed his ex-wife on the evening of June 17, 2010.

“He lost control of himself,” Banning told jurors. “He lost control of his emotion. He pointed the gun at her and her shot her.”

But the killing was not a vicious murder, said Banning. Rather, the shooting was an act of voluntary manslaughter.

Mittelman and Valerie first met while working in New York in 1977. Banning said they were busy professionals. To unwind after a busy day, the two would normally stop by a local bar on the way home.

But after two DUI convictions, Mittelman decided that the couple would be better served enjoying their extracurricular activities in the comforts of their own home, which often led to arguments between husband and wife.

“Drinking out in public tended to temper their attitudes toward each other,” he said.

The two moved to California and bought a house in Antelope. Valerie, according to Banning, had a difficult time adjusting.

“Valerie didn’t like California,” he said. “She had a hard time finding a job.”

Valerie eventually left Antelope and moved to Georgia to be with the father of her first child.

Mittelman met his second wife, Gail, in 2004. In order to move in with Mittelman, she paid Valerie $30,000 and bought out her equity in the Antelope home.

But within a few years, Valerie squandered the money and was unable to make ends meet. By this point, Valerie had become suicidal, Banning said.

Although he had remarried, Mittelman stayed in touch with Valerie. He felt he had an obligation to aid his ex.

“Steven frankly thought he would go to hell if he didn’t help her,” Banning told jurors.

Mittelman consulted with Gail and invited Valerie to move back into the Antelope house.

In an effort to save money and be closer to Mittelman’s business, Placerville’s 1 Stop Market, the three moved to Cameron Park and, in April 2010, to an El Dorado Hills apartment.

The plan, Banning said, was for Valerie to save money before moving out on her own.

Mittelman and Valerie manned the convenience store while Gail worked at an area hospital. Valerie brought home roughly $30 a week but was allowed to live with Mittelman and his wife rent-free.

“Valerie and Steven worked 12-hour days times seven days a week,” said Banning. “They became the face of the store.”

But Valerie’s alcoholism soon took control of her life, the attorney said.

“At the store, Valerie was upbeat,” Banning said. “At home, she just wanted to drink.”

And it was during a night of drinking on June 17, 2010, that Valerie provoked Mittelman by reminding him of the child he never had.

Mittelman’s first inclination was not to shoot his ex-wife, according to the attorney.

“Steven was contemplating suicide at that point,” said Banning.

But it was Valerie who was shot through the head with a single bullet.

Banning’s first witness, Gail, was called to testify following his opening Tuesday.

For the complete recap of Gail Mittelman’s testimony, as well as the rest of the trial, read the Mountain Democrat’s Friday edition or check online Thursday.

[email protected]

Jim Ratajczak


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