Did Bryan Anthony James, 33, have a “fairytale marriage” with Ashley James, 31, or did this Michigan husband kill her to avoid the fallout from a messy divorce? He fatally shot his wife in 2019, claiming he believed she was an intruder, but a prosecutor in Washtenaw County, Michigan, says the defendant took lessons from the case of athlete Oscar Pistorius, who was convicted in a similar shooting.
Authorities say Bryan James fatally shot Ashley James with a .40 caliber handgun the early morning of July 11, 2019, after she returned to their bedroom from a trip to the bathroom.
“She fell back and said, ‘Babe, you shot me,’ before dying on the floor a minute later,” Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Lou Danner said in closing arguments, according to MLive.
Deliberations started Thursday.
Ashley James sustained a single gunshot wound to the chest, going through her heart, lungs, liver and spleen before exiting the body. Judging by the trajectory of the wound, she was ducking out of the way, Danner said.
The couple had been together for 13 years—married for five—and had two children.
But the prosecution maintained that defendant James felt trapped in his marriage. He decided to kill Ashley to avoid getting caught up in a divorce or custody battle of their two children, Danner said. Less than a month after the murder, he started a new Tinder profile, the prosecutor said. He also collected a $70,000 life insurance claim, the state said.
“The price of him starting a new life was Ashley’s life,” Danner reportedly said.
Detectives testified about Bryan James making suspicious searches before the shooting, including a June 3, 2019 query about the Paralympic sprinter Pistorius, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The athlete infamously maintained that he only shot Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder, but prosecutors said he intended on killing her. Danner maintained that defendant James was researching the case in order to plan how to act after killing Ashley, and to avoid Pistorius’ mistakes.
Some voiced shock at the time of the killing. Ashley James’ cousin Carnae Sanders described them as a loving couple, who never argued and were always happy, according to Fox 2 Detroit in a report from July 15, 2019.
“We hope that it was a mistake,” she said. “We think that it was a mistake. We don’t think that he meant any harm to her or anything.”
That’s the picture that Bryan James’ attorney Adam Clements painted in court this week. He maintained Ashley’s death was a tragic accident, and he construed the state’s case as “cherry picking.”
“My client did not stand to gain anything here,” he said, according to MLive. “They had a fairytale marriage and were soulmates. I ask when is it OK to move on after losing a soulmate.”
[Screenshot of the James home via Fox 2 Detroit; Pistorius via Bryn Lennon/Getty Images]
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