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October 31, 2014

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Henderson case treads fine line between murder, self-defense

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David Hudson

Click to enlarge photo

Tammy M. Lucero

The final chapter of a tempestuous romance between two Henderson neighbors has yet to be written.

One person’s fate has been decided — death by strangulation. Another’s is in the hands of the American justice system.

It’s a process that could take months, even years, if the murder case heads to trial and winds its way through appeals.

In the meantime, this much is known: Tammy Lucero, 36, sits in a Clark County Detention Center cell awaiting trial. She told authorities she strangled her live-in boyfriend, 35-year-old David Hudson, after she feared he would kill her.

That was May 24. Henderson Police found Hudson’s lifeless body draped over a chair in the couple’s studio apartment.

“A gray-colored computer cord was still wrapped around his neck three times,” according to a Henderson Police report.

Less than two months later, on Aug. 10, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office charged Lucero with murder. Police arrested her several days later.

The case, brimming with allegations of domestic abuse on both sides, poses complicated questions: Did Lucero act in self-defense? If so, does that warrant a murder charge? Or was Hudson really the victim during the couple’s turbulent relationship?

The answer is a no-brainer for Hudson’s family, who recently spoke with a Sun reporter about the case.

“The whole family felt (Lucero) should have been arrested that day,” said Melissa Hudson, who is married to Hudson’s brother. “We felt like if it had been the other way around, David would have gone to jail that night.”

David Hudson’s mother, Katherine Alexander, said the couple met at the fence that divided their parents’ properties in Henderson. The romance, which the family said was only 8 or 10 months old at the time of the slaying, blossomed quickly, and the two moved in together.

“David was a good-hearted person,” Alexander said. “He wasn’t perfect, but nobody is. He didn’t deserve to die this way.”

The arrest report paints a portrait of a troubled relationship, with both parties claiming the victim title.

In January, police arrested David Hudson for domestic battery against Lucero, whom officers said had visible injuries in various stages of healing.

Lucero told police the pattern continued, with her receiving about three beatings per week. She told detectives that two weeks before her boyfriend’s death, he stabbed her on the head — a wound that required 13 staples to close — but refused to let her seek medical treatment until she promised to lie about its cause.

A detective who interviewed Lucero concluded she “fit the profile of a battered victim and was fearful of Hudson,” according to the arrest report.

The couple’s neighbors, however, observed a different victim.

Several neighbors interviewed by detectives said they saw Lucero being the aggressor in the couple’s tumultuous relationship. At one point, David Hudson “stood by with his arms crossed” while Lucero allegedly beat him outside their apartment, they told police.

“It’s apparent there was violence in their relationship,” Melissa Hudson said. “I just think that they were toxic to each other. They shouldn’t have been together.”

In the end, a spaghetti-strap tank top may have initiated the couple’s final argument.

David Hudson didn’t want Lucero wearing it, Lucero told police. A physical altercation ensued.

Lucero described their fight like this: He grabbed her and put both his hands around her neck. She fought back, grabbed the computer power cord and began wrapping it around his neck.

“I don’t know what happened,” she told police. “I just lost control.”

If Lucero’s abuse allegations are true, domestic violence experts say her statement to police could signify a victim’s breaking point.

“(Victims) are so detached from their bodies after so much abuse,” said Marlene Richter, executive director of Shade Tree, a Las Vegas shelter that helps abused women. “It is just so destructive — the cycle of power and control — that it takes even their hope away.”

Lucero’s statements to detectives possibly alluded to this victim mindset, police noted in the arrest report.

“Lucero stated the beatings she received gradually got worse, and this time when she was choked, she thought she was going to die,” the report states.

According to Nevada Revised Statutes, if a person kills in self-defense, it must appear “the danger was so urgent and pressing that, in order to save the person’s own life, or to prevent the person from receiving great bodily harm, the killing was absolutely necessary.”

The law further states that “the person killed was the assailant, or that the slayer had really, and in good faith, endeavored to decline any further struggle before the mortal blow was given.”

An official with the District Attorney’s Office said the office generally doesn’t comment about ongoing cases.

Lucero is scheduled to appear Tuesday in Henderson Justice Court for a hearing related to the murder charge. She declined a jailhouse interview request for this story.

The murder charge, however, isn’t her first brush with the law. Lucero has an arrest record in Henderson dating to October 2010, Henderson Police spokesman Keith Paul said.

Lucero has been arrested for a variety of offenses, including burglary, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, Paul said.

The apparent violent nature of Lucero and David Hudson’s relationship is hardly a rarity in Nevada, though. Domestic violence has long plagued the state, which is known as a mecca for both weddings and divorces.

A study released Wednesday by the Violence Policy Center ranks Nevada first in the nation in the rate of women killed by men. Nevada’s rate of 2.62 homicides per 100,000 females puts the Silver State in the unwanted top spot for a third consecutive year. (The study used homicide data from 2010 to determine the state rankings.)

Although the Lucero case is the opposite — a woman killing a man — Barbara Morgan, a detective in Metro Police’s domestic violence section, said it wasn’t necessarily a surprise.

“Women are getting more aggressive,” she said, noting that 20 to 25 percent of the domestic violence cases she investigates involve female suspects.

Typically, the female cases are less violent than the ones with male suspects, Morgan said. But every now and then, there’s a particularly violent exception.

For instance, Morgan said she investigated a case in June that involved a female stabbing her boyfriend in Las Vegas.

These cases highlight the unpredictability of domestic violence cases, which authorities say impact every cross-section of society regardless of race, gender or age.

“Domestic violence knows no boundaries,” Morgan said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich. It doesn’t matter if you’re poor.”

David Hudson’s family firmly believes he was one of those male victims. They reject any notion that Lucero was forced to commit murder in self-defense.

“I know what it’s like to be in a domestic violence life,” Alexander said. “I was in one for 11 years with my three kids, but I took my clothes and my children and walked away.”

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  1. Let's hope the prosecution has the intelligence to include the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter. Hard to imagine she couldn't have found a way to leave, but you never know.

  2. There are many reasons why a victim won't leave an abusive relationship. Hudson's mother makes it seem like it's so simple to just up and leave. Lucero may have been financially dependent on Hudson. She may have feared retaliation. Perhaps Lucero comes from a family where her father beat her mother, or she may have been abused. She may not have a good support system in Henderson. It's not simply a matter of deciding to walk away. It's never that simple.

    Hudson's mother gives a clue to her son's possible motives by admitting her children (including David Hudson) were exposed to an abusive father figure for 11 years. Abusers are often exhibiting learned behavior. If she was in the abusive relationship for 11 years, it was obviously not easy to leave.

  3. Never allow hands on in anger. The first time needs to be the last.