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Trial begins for William Landis in 2009 killing of wife

Trial begins for William Landis in 2009 killing of wife

READING, Pa. - Attorneys presented their opening statements Tuesday in the murder trial of William Landis Jr., a Berks County businessman who's accused of killing his wife in 2009.

The prosecution told the jury that Landis "intended, even if he formed it in an instance, to kill his wife, Sharon Landis."

The prosecution referenced the number of shots as proof the shooting was no accident.

"Bill Landis fired toward his wife three times. The third and fatal shot was only 18 to 24 inches from her head," the assistant district attorney said.

The defense, however, said the couple had a fight and struggled with a gun before it accidentally discharged, killing Sharon.

"You will hear throughout this case that there was a violent struggle over the gun during this night," Landis' attorney argued.

Prosecutors pointed out the different explanations Landis gave of how his wife was shot as the events unfolded.

The jury heard a recording of a 911 call in which prosecutors said Landis told dispatchers that his wife was shot but that he didn't know how. Later, when talking with officers, he said an argument ensued, and he accidentally shot her.

The defense countered, saying Landis was distraught and had been drinking at the bar beforehand. The attorney portrayed Landis as a family man trying to keep his struggling marriage alive.

"This is a man living in fear, a sad man trying to keep it all together," Landis' attorney said.

The defense said Sharon had previously threatened to kill Bill in weeks leading up to the shooting.

"She said she wanted to kill Bill Landis. This is a fact" argued the defense, adding that she often took his guns and hid them around the house.

The shooting happened during an argument inside the couple's home on Oct. 28, 2009, police said.

Landis then called 911 and barricaded himself inside the home following the shooting, officials said. Negotiations led to gunfire during a six-hour standoff in which police accused Landis of firing toward officers. No officers were injured during the standoff.

Landis is the owner of a successful multimillion dollar trucking company, Landis Express, in Muhlenberg Township. Landis worked as a trucker before building the company from the ground up.

Authorities said the couple's longtime marriage was plagued with domestic violence and came to a head that October night.

The coroner said Sharon was shot multiple times and ruled the death a homicide.

A separate trial will be held on charges related to the standoff with police.

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