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A Wise County man that rammed his wife’s car and then shot her twice in the leg last November was assessed sentences of 60, 20, and 10 years in prison for three aggravated assault cases in a jury trial that concluded in Weatherford on Thursday.
On November 3, David Daniel Duff, Jr., 41, was served with divorce papers after having separated from his wife about a month prior. What happened from there was described by Assistant District Attorney Jeff Swain, who tried the case with Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Catania, as "the worst nightmare of every person that files for divorce."
Shortly after being served, Duff drove over to the area where he believed his wife was staying in Springtown, saw her and her cousin driving home, and cut them off with his car, according to trial testimony from the wife and cousin.
While they were stopped, Duff began yelling at his wife and pointed a 10mm handgun at the two, causing them to speed away. Duff drove his jeep the opposite direction, came around the block, and rammed the car the two women were in into a pipe fence, according to trial testimony.
After his wife got out of the car, Duff shot her in both legs. He then got into a standoff with the cousin’s husband who had come to the scene during which he alternatively pointed the gun at the husband and at his wife, saying that he had better "put the gun down or I’ll pop her." The wife continually asked Duff to put the gun that he was holding to her head down and not shoot her, begging him to think of their children and his parents.
After police arrived on scene and arrested Duff, the victim was taken by helicopter to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where she remained for about three weeks.
"The most captivating and terrifying part of this case was the fact that all of the events were captured on the victim’s 911 call," Swain said. "Hearing the victim scream and cry as she is shot, hearing her beg for her life, and hearing the defendant tell her over and over again ‘This is all your fault’ really allowed the jury to have a firsthand insight as to what the victim must have felt that most juries don’t have."
Duff eventually put his pistol down as the police arrived and he attempted to put a tourniquet on his wife’s legs as she screamed in pain and for fear of losing her legs.
Duff’s wife testified that he had pointed a gun at her before and told jurors that he had previously said that if she ever tried to leave him, he would "kill her and anyone else that tried to help her."
Duff’s attorneys contended that he suffered from major, recurring depression that stemmed from his accidentally shooting and killing a friend when he was 14 years old. They contended that receiving the divorce citation, improper medication, and being notified that day that his son got into trouble at school pushed him to think and behave irrationally.
During closing argument, Catania told jurors that the defendant was "high risk, dangerous, and homicidal" and asked jurors to "assess a sentence that will tell these women that they are now safe."
"This was the first Parker County case to go to trial under a family violence statute that passed the last time the legislature met," Swain said. "In the 2009 session, the legislature increased the punishment for aggravated assault cases where the victim was a family member and was attacked with a deadly weapon which caused serious bodily injury. What that means is that, instead of this offense carrying a sentence of 2 to 20 years, the punishment range is 5 to 99 years or life. Since we believe that Mr. Duff will be a continuing risk to his now ex-wife if he is ever released, that change in law allowed the jury to keep the victim safe for the foreseeable future."
On Monday, Duff entered a guilty plea to the three aggravated assault cases, two related to the intentional car wreck and one to the shooting, and elected to have a jury assess his punishment.
The trial was conducted in the 43rd Judicial District Court, Judge Trey Loftin presiding.
Duff will not become eligible for parole until 2040, according to District Attorney Don Schnebly.