Courts & Crime

Woman charged after husband kills self with gun she gave him

MIAMI — Tired of their bickering and her husband's complaints that he wanted to die, an exasperated Cutler Bay woman asked him if he wanted his pistol.

Yes, he replied -- so she fetched the weapon from another room and tossed it on the couch next to him, police said.

Then he shot himself, fatally, in the head.

For her ``reckless disregard for human life,'' Valerie Jenkins will be charged Wednesday with manslaughter with a deadly weapon for the May 2009 death of her husband, Robert Jenkins, prosecutors say.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office filed formal charges against Valerie Jenkins, 56, on Wednesday in front of Circuit Judge Reemberto Diaz. Jenkins who was in court and remained silent throughout the proceedings plead not guilty.

Robert Jenkins, 51, a longtime South Miami-Dade auto mechanic, was an avid fisherman who loved life and never talked of suicide, relatives say. ``We all have to be accountable for our actions,'' said Robin Jenkins, the dead man's sister-in-law. ``Her actions resulted in Bob's death.''

Robert and Valerie Jenkins were married for seven years and lived in a home in the 10000 block of Martinique Drive. They had no children.

Her attorney, James Best, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

Jenkins told Miami-Dade police homicide detectives that she and her husband fought frequently, and he often said ``he wanted to die,'' according to an arrest warrant. On May 4, 2009, the couple fought over his not taking his blood pressure medicine. Robert Jenkins was ``probably depressed'' and had been drinking beer, his wife told police.

Robert Jenkins again said ``he wanted to die.''

Angry and frustrated, Jenkins asked her husband if he wanted his gun. After he said yes, she retrieved his .22-caliber pistol, in a zippered pouch, from a dresser drawer, she told police. She flipped it onto the sofa where Robert Jenkins sat.

When she turned to enter the kitchen, "she heard a single gunshot, and when she turned back, she observed the victim slumped over on the sofa with a gunshot wound to the side of the head,'' the warrant states.

Jenkins frantically called 911, saying that while her husband had threatened to use the gun in the past, "he had never actually asked her for it while they were arguing.''

The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death a suicide. Robert Jenkins' blood alcohol level was .14, nearly twice the legal limit for driving.

In preparing its manslaughter case, Miami-Dade prosecutors Lody Jean and Kathleen Hoague relied on the successful case against Jeramy Ricky Rushing, who in February 1986 gave a cocked, loaded gun to a despondent woman outside a Dania Beach bar.

A Broward County judge dismissed a manslaughter charge against Rushing, but the Fourth District Court of Appeal reinstated it, clearing the way for a trial. In 1992, jurors convicted Rushing and he was sentenced to two years of house arrest plus 300 hours of community service.

Prosecutors said Valerie Jenkins "engaged in a course of conduct that was gross and flagrant, showing reckless disregard for human life'' by giving the loaded gun to her intoxicated husband.