I Am a Killer: Linda Couch

'He was so different when we were just dating. But once he had that ring on my finger, he changed into a monster. I probably would not have ended up in here had I just went ahead and divorced him'

 - Linda Couch

Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) is a psychological condition which is caused by severe domestic abuse. Sustained physical, emotional, sexual, financial and verbal abuse can lead to severe depression, confusion, fear and ‘learned helplessness’. Compared to PTSD by many experts, it’s not uncommon in victims of domestic abuse. 

Primarily, BWS manifests itself in feelings of weakness and a belief that any and all awful treatment is deserved. Unfortunately for sufferers, it makes ending the cycle of abuse extremely difficult and often results in the continuation of their abusive relationships. Often, but not always.

In terms of crime, Battered Woman Syndrome is interesting because it can count towards one the very few reasons to ‘excuse’ murder. ‘Provocation’ isn’t exactly a legal defence for homicide, per se, but it can be - if proven - a mitigating factor.

In terms of crime, Battered Woman Syndrome is interesting because it can count towards one the very few reasons to ‘excuse’ murder. ‘Provocation’ isn’t exactly a legal defence for homicide, per se, but it can be - if proven - a mitigating factor.

Linda Couch was a battered woman. Whether she actually suffered from Battered Woman Syndrome or not isn’t exactly clear. BWS wasn’t fully understood or recognised when she stood trial for the murder of her husband Walter back in the mid-1980’s. Even if it was, the court wouldn’t have heard about it; her abuse didn’t form part of her, admittedly, quite flimsy defence. For reasons best known to Linda and her defence team.

the handgun found its way into her abuser’s brain, killing him instantly.

It was an accident, but one that only came about because of her abusive husband’s viciousness and willingness to wave a gun around their bedroom.

That’s Linda Couch’s account of her marriage and the killing of her husband, anyway. The prosecution, naturally, saw it a little different. As did, in the end, the jury. And even her daughter Roxanne…

It seems almost overwhelmingly likely that Linda Couch was abused by her husband Walter to some degree or another. Roxanne has vivid memories of the beatings that would be dished out in the household to both her and her mother. 

What seems distinctly less likely is Linda’s assertion that his killing was purely accidental, for a number of reasons which the then prosecutor and now Hamilton County judge Patrick Dinkelacker pointed out during the trial back in 1985. Such as:
●    The gun wasn’t Walter’s, it was actually purchased ‘for the house’ by Linda. And only a matter of a week or so before it was used to scramble the insides of Mr. Couch’s skull.
●    The house they lived in was in Walter’s parents’ names, until shortly before his death, when it was transferred exclusively to him. Just weeks before she pulled the trigger, Linda doctored the deeds, transferring it - fraudulently - into her name.
●    The kids very rarely ever spent the night with their grandparents. On the night in question though, Linda had organised for them to be out of the house. Leaving the house free.

Then there’s a rather shocking aspect to the case which casts an entirely new light on Linda’s character. Something which could be explained away by trauma, abuse and a mental breakdown to some extent. But is rather jaw dropping nonetheless… Linda had the children help bury their father in the garden. She even made their dig his shallow grave. 

Murder? Self defence? Provocation? Battered Wife Syndrome? Premeditation? ‘Prior calculation and design’ (as the prosecution put it)? What was really behind Linda Couch shooting her husband dead? Maybe it was a little of all of them. Hers is a complicated and sad tale, one marred by violence, bloodshed, trauma and death.

Linda was convicted of aggravated murder and given the maximum sentence of life in prison. She has been refused parole five times in the past 14 years. She will next be considered for release in 2020.

Discover more about Linda’s story in the new series of I Am a Killer and see what your inner detective makes if it all…

I Am a Killer continues on Crime+Investigation, Tuesdays at 9pm.