IOWA CITY - Delinquent child support payments owed to a woman serving life in prison for murder will be garnished to pay restitution to her victim's family, an Iowa judge has ruled.
Tracey Richter, 48, does not need the financial support that she is owed from her ex-husband because she no longer has any dependent children and doesn't need money for herself, Judge Kurt Wilke ruled last week.
Wilke ordered that $2,000 recently paid by Richter's ex-husband, Michael Roberts, on his outstanding child support obligation will go toward the $150,000 restitution that Richter owes the family of victim Dustin Wehde.
In this Oct. 27, 2011 file photo, Tracey Richter listens to testimony during her first-degree murder trial in Fort Dodge. An Iowa judge sentenced Richter to life in prison, Dec. 5, 2011, for killing a neighbor in the town of Early as part of a plot to frame her ex-husband. District Judge Kurt Wilke ruled last week that Richter doesn't need support from her ex-husband Michael Roberts and the $2,000 child support payment she received will be used to pay restitution to her victim's family instead.
Richter is incarcerated in Mitchellville for the 2001 killing of 20-year-old Wehde in Early, Iowa. She was convicted of first-degree murder in 2011 following a trial in which she unsuccessfully argued that she shot Wehde in self-defense to protect her children. Instead, jurors agreed with the prosecution that Richter killed Wehde as part of a plot to frame her first ex-husband, John Pitman, to gain an advantage in their custody fight.
After Richter was arrested, Roberts eventually obtained custody of the two children they had together and moved to his native Australia. He and Richter had fought since 2004 over the terms of their divorce settlement and children's custody.
Despite Richter's conviction and loss of custody, a judge ruled that Roberts needed to pay Richter delinquent child support and divorce settlement payments that he owed. A February court order requires Roberts to pay $250 per month toward the balance, which he said is about $45,000 in child support and $60,000 in property and attorneys' fees.
Sac County Attorney Ben Smith, who prosecuted Richter, earlier this year moved to garnish the child support payments. He noted that Richter had paid a few hundred dollars toward the victim restitution of $150,000. She owes an additional $90,000 in court costs, but under Iowa law, the victim's family receives any available money first.
Smith said that court officials would wait to see whether Richter appeals Wilke's order before sending any funds to Wehde's mother, Mona Wehde. Richter has 30 days to appeal.
Smith said he would keep trying to garnish all such funds, including the proceeds of a planned sale of an apartment building Roberts owns in the northwest Iowa town of Aurelia.