Roberta had seen a lawyer about a divorce before this, but had never followed through on it. "I loved David," Roberta said later. "He was basically a nice man."

ROBERTA KORZEP has remained steadfast on a central issue of David's violent death: "That's the maddest I had ever seen him. I thought he was going to try and strangle me again and probably kill me."

The fatal clash started minutes after the Korzeps got home from their Valentine's Day night out. Roberta's version of what happened:

She had undressed to her underwear and was ready for bed when David started in on her. He swore at her, grabbed her by the hair and tried to pull her toward the bed.

"I just thought, `Here we go again,'" she recalled. "This time, I didn't even know why he was mad."
Roberta left the room and David slammed the door behind her. She reopened it and slammed it shut again, saying she could play that game, too. The door-slamming contest went on once or twice more. Roberta then walked to the kitchen to eat an orange and calm down.

David suddenly appeared in the kitchen. His eyes were bulging and his jaw was jutting out. "He started calling me names again and then he hit me right there," Roberta said, pointing to her cheek. "We have this little knife thing, and I just grabbed it and I just hit him with it."

Roberta had stabbed David in the abdomen. David retreated toward the bedroom. She followed after him, knife still in hand, after she noticed a spot of blood on his shirt.

(This, prosecutors argue, was not what a frightened person would do.)

"I followed him to see if I had stabbed him or something," Roberta said. "It happened so fast. I didn't know whether I had or not."
David then told Roberta, "You really think you're funny now, don't you?" He stepped toward her. She ran out of the house. Still in her underwear, she knocked frantically on her neighbor Mary Gooding's door. Gooding saw a hysterical woman holding a knife.

"Mary," Roberta told her, "you have to go over and help me because David is crazy again and he is hitting me, and I think I stabbed him."
Mary looked at the knife, which wasn't bloody, and said, "No, you probably didn't." She suggested they call the police, but Roberta said no. "She didn't want to do that because David was a big city official and he would have been really mad..."

Roberta called David's friend, Jerry Ambrose, the president of the Yuma Kiwanis Club. Not knowing the urgency of the situation, Jerry and his wife took their time coming over.

It was past 2 a.m. and almost an hour since the stabbing. Roberta, Mary Gooding and the Ambroses entered the Korzeps' home, not knowing what to expect.

David Korzep was facedown in the hall between the kitchen and the master bedroom. He was unconscious and barely breathing. Roberta cradled David's head in her arms until the Yuma police showed up. "I was telling him to wake up," Roberta said. "He was cold and white-looking."

David Korzep's stab wound had lacerated his aorta and vena cava, the two main blood vessels. His spleen had been ruptured. He was a dead man.

ARIZONANS OF ALL stripes endorse the concept of shooting first and asking questions later when protecting self and property.

But that hasn't always been allowed by law. As recently as the Sixties, the right to use deadly force against an unarmed trespasser was not permitted in Arizona. In a 1967 Sierra Vista murder case, for instance, the court upheld the conviction of a man who shot to death an intruder-his girlfriend's ex-husband.

"The statute does not give a person carte blanche to shoot another simply because that other person is committing an act which might be considered a felony," the high court wrote. "Rather, it is necessary that the act reasonably create a fear of great bodily injury."
In the mid-Seventies, however, the Arizona Criminal Code Commission recommended a new crime-justification law to complement the existing self-defense laws. The commission was not recommending an all-encompassing Make My Day law. It wanted to allow deadly force to prevent only a few "imminent" life-threatening crimes, such as murder.

But the Arizona State Legislature in 1977 and succeeding years went well beyond that. The lawmakers deleted the word "imminent" from the proposed law, then tacked on a new set of crimes that would justify the use of deadly force. (Besides murder, the crimes include armed robbery, arson of an occupied building, burglary, kidnaping, manslaughter, aggravated assault, child molestation, rape and sexual conduct with a minor.)

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin