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June 16, 2011

Duff shot, killed friend when a teen

WEATHERFORD — The man on trial for shooting his wife twice after being served divorce papers in November has had ongoing issues with mental illness ever since he shot and killed a close friend when he was 14 years old, according to testimony presented to a Parker County jury Wednesday.

David “Danny” Daniel Duff Jr., 41, of Boyd, has already pleaded guilty to two second degree felony aggravated assault charges and a first degree felony aggravated assault charge resulting from a Nov. 3 incident where he rammed his wife’s car, causing a wreck, and shot her twice when she attempted to escape.

Duff has elected to have a jury decide punishment.

He faces a range of punishment from probation to 99 years in prison for the first degree felony.

A cousin of Duff’s, Patsy Amine, testified Wednesday she and Duff’s sister witnessed Duff shoot and kill 14-year-old Vick Tucker in May 1984, in Camp Wood, a small town in South Texas.

Though the death was ruled accidental, Amine said she was not questioned by law enforcement until a month after the incident, and she does not believe it was an accident.

As the four were playing cards on the first day of summer vacation, Danny Duff retrieved their grandfather’s family .22-caliber rifle from the gun cabinet and showed it to Tucker, who handed it back to Duff, according to Amine.

Amine said Duff pointed the gun nearly directly over her shoulder and it went off.

They then realized Tucker had been shot in the temple and was slumped in his chair, Amine said.

Amine said she was so upset she needed medical attention and didn’t remember anything about the two weeks following the death.

Amine also recalled a later incident in the early 1990s when Duff and his wife, Samantha Duff, separated for a period of time, and Samantha Duff and her son lived with her.

Danny Duff loudly knocked on the door and wanted to come in the house and talk with his wife, Amine testified.

When she told him no, he told her he would shoot her if she didn’t let him in, so she did, Amine said.

Though no gun was displayed, she believed his threat to kill her, Amine testified.

“I was scared,” Amine said. “He’s done it before.”

Amine said her family is not speaking to her because of her decision to testify.

Sherry Fritz, Samantha Duff’s cousin who was in the car at the time of the wreck, testified her airbag did not deploy and she blacked out.

She told jurors she thought Duff was shooting at her as she fled the car after the wreck and heard the shots.

When she got behind a nearby house, “[Samantha Duff] wasn’t with me,” Fritz said, her voice breaking up.

After Sherry Fritz called her husband, who was at home around the corner, Robert “Bob” Fritz brought a handgun and found them at the corner of Goshen Road, according to testimony.

Holding his own handgun at his side, he attempted to talk Danny Duff out of shooting Samantha Duff, but Danny Duff pointed the gun at him in a shooter’s stance and then held the gun to Samantha Duff’s head, threatening to kill her so he backed off, Bob Fritz said.

When she later saw her cousin laying in a pool of blood, she thought she was dead, Sherry Fritz said.

Fritz later had to have five stitches on her face and continues to be treated for neck and shoulder pain.

After the incident, she had flashbacks of Danny Duff standing in her driveway with a gun pointed in her direction when she would drive out of her garage, had dreams of Samantha Duff screaming and continues to go through counseling, Fritz said.

“I still have guilt about leaving her,” Fritz said.

Given that divorce papers set off Danny Duff that day, Fritz said she is afraid of what will happen to her cousin after the trial if Duff is able to walk free.

Psychologist Peter Oropeza, who performed a court ordered examination of Duff after his arrest, testified he diagnosed Duff with a severe, ongoing major depressive disorder and found Duff has a history of mental illness since he was a teenager.

He was treated following the 1984 shooting incident.

Duff was hospitalized twice in 2000 for a total of 12 days, first for suicidal statements and then for suicidal and homicidal statements, according to testimony.

On Nov. 3, Duff received the divorce papers and found out his son was in trouble at school, so he was clearly depressed, angry and emotional, Oropeza said.

Duff went to his physician to get another prescription for his anti-depressant because he had started doubling his dosage, according to testimony.

Oropeza also testified Duff requested his son go with him to look for his mother, who had attempted to keep hidden where she was living from her estranged husband.

Because Duff approached his son in person, unusual for him, and asked several times, Oropeza took that and the request for additional medication as a cry for help, he said.

Duff told him he used the gun because he wanted to make his wife talk with him, according to Oropeza.

Duff also remembered most of the incident, including holding the gun to his own head at one point, but told Oropeza and investigators he did not remember shooting his wife, Oropeza testified.

Duff also provided an alternate explanation for the gun — saying he had been getting ready to go out and shoot turtles and snakes, Oropeza testified.

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