Woman denied bail over safety concerns in decapitation case

Michael Casey
Associated Press

A woman whose husband killed her lover and forced her to decapitate him must remain behind bars until her trial, a judge ruled Monday.

Coos County Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein denied the bail request and sided with prosecutors, who acknowledged that the woman was a victim of domestic violence but that she still should have done more to alert authorities about the killing.

The woman’s husband is accused of luring Jonathan Amerault, 25, on Sept. 19 to a park, kidnapping him and then shooting him to death in a car. He is also accused of hiding the body at a campsite in northern New Hampshire. He was charged in October with capital murder and beating and threatening his wife, who has been charged with falsifying evidence. She is not facing any charges directly connected to Amerault’s killing. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Jonathan Amerault

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The Associated Press is not naming the couple because doing so could identify the woman, who says she suffered extreme abuse.

“The state has established by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s release would pose a danger to the public,” Bornstein said. “I agree with the state’s characterization that her dangerousness is demonstrated by the series of decisions that she made over considerable amount of time and over considerable distances to destroy evidence and not make legitimate alternative choices that the state identified.”

The wife has told police that she was forced to drive Amerault’s car, containing his body, to the campsite, while her husband drove another vehicle. At the campsite, the woman said her husband ordered her to cut off Amerault’s head so his body could not be identified by dental records, bury it and wrap the rest of the body in a tarp. He later left her there to dispose of the body and returned home, according to the documents.

The woman’s attorney, Richard Guerriero, insisted she posed no danger if released and said her actions had to be considered in light of the abuse she suffered and the duress she was under at the time of the killing. After her husband discovered her affair, she told authorities that he repeatedly assaulted her, put a gun in her mouth and choked her until she passed out.

“You’ve seen the pictures I have put in my motion,” Guerriero told the court. “Both eyes, beaten in the head with her nose bleeding so much and her head pounding. The state would expect her at that moment to be thinking rationally. I would suggest that is just not reasonable and fair to expect under these circumstances.”

Assistant Attorney General Scott Chase said the state’s opposition to giving the woman bail stemmed from what he said was her failure to take any action over the cross-state drive over hundreds of miles to call for help or alert authorities about the killing.

“She had a car with gas, a cell phone and a loaded gun and she continued to side with the defendant,” Chase told the court. “Even when the defendant would stop and get gas and she was parked down the street at a park, she made absolutely no efforts to take any lawful alternative steps. She was committed. She was following her husband. She was continuing to choose his side.”