A man accused of shooting his ex-wife in his Alpine home two days before Christmas must stand trial on murder and assault charges, a judge ruled Monday.
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Justin Meltzer faces 61 years to life in prison if convicted in the Dec. 23 death of Deborah Meltzer.
A friend said the 40-year-old victim had taken her two young sons to Meltzer's home to see their father. The children were at a neighbor's house when the gunfire erupted.
At Meltzer's arraignment last year, Deputy District Attorney Carlos Campbell told a judge that a man running down the street about 5:45 p.m. saw the defendant with the victim outside the home on Larkspur Drive.
The witness said the woman was handcuffed, with a dog leash attached to the cuffs, and was yelling, "Help me. He's got a gun. He's going to kill me," according to the prosecutor.
One of Meltzer's neighbors, Kenneth Mohler, testified Monday that he was watching television about 6:30 p.m. when his wife told him that "something was wrong at Justin's home."
A fire alarm was going off and a dog was in the front yard, Mohler testified. He said he went up to the front door, and Deborah Meltzer pushed open a security door and took his hand.
"She said, 'Kenny, get me out of here,'" Mohler testified.
Mohler said the 43-year-old defendant, who was holding his ex-wife by the leash, was disoriented and mumbling during the four to five minutes Mohler talked to him.
As Mohler talked to the Meltzers, a shot rang out, sending shrapnel into his face. The defendant yanked the victim back into the home and several more shots rang out, the witness testified.
Sheriff's Deputy Cliff Laplant was the first officer to arrive at the scene.
"She was shouting for her life," he said. "She was stating, 'Don't kill me, he's going to kill me, I don't want to die.'"
He shot at the defendant with his rifle when Meltzer yelled that he had made up his mind what he was going to do.
"I tried to end it by shooting into the door," the deputy said.
After hearing numerous shots from inside the house, Laplant said he fired three more shots.
Deputies who went inside found a 9mm weapon emptied out next to the defendant, who was lying next to his dead wife with a gunshot wound to the leg. Campbell said the victim had been shot in the chest seven times.
Outside the courtroom on Monday, 10News witnessed Deborah Meltzer's father lash out at Laplant, saying, "I hold you responsible."
Two people then walked up to Laplant and thanked him for what he did.
"We all miss her and it's revisiting what happened, so it's definitely very emotional," one friend of Debbie Meltzer told 10News.
El Cajon Superior Court Judge Herbert Exarhos found that enough evidence was presented at the preliminary hearing for the defendant to stand trial. Justin Meltzer is being held at the San Diego Central Jail. Bail was set at $2 million. Arraignment was set for June 12.
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