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Ex-Florida police officer on trial for slaying of wife, her lover

By Harriet Ryan
Court TV

(Court TV) -- It was 1:15 in the morning when the retired police officer's wife shook him awake. Phone call, she told him. He was still groggy when he put the receiver to his ear, but what he heard jolted him.

"I shot two people," the voice said. The startling confession came from his friend Roy Kipp, another retired cop. He went on to say he'd caught his estranged wife with another man, a sheriff's officer in fact, and "went crazy...and ended up shooting them both," the retired officer later recalled.

He hung up on Kipp and called 911. Deputies went to the Naples apartment where Kipp's wife, Sandra, lived, but it was too late. She and her friend Jeff Klein, a Collier County, Florida, sheriff's sergeant, were dead from gunshot wounds.

Now, almost two years later, Kipp is going on trial for the double-murder and his alleged phone confession is at the heart of the case against him. If convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, the 44-year-old Kipp, who spent more than a third of his life enforcing the law, could be sentenced to death.

The death of Kipp, a young mother with many close friends, and Klein, an Air Force veteran considered a rising star in the sheriff's department, shocked Collier County. Media coverage was so intensive that Judge Daniel Monaco granted a defense request to hold the trial 50 miles north in Charlotte County, Florida, where finding an impartial jury would be easier.

Prosecutors are expected to paint Kipp as a jealous, verbally-abusive husband who could not accept that his wife was leaving him and starting a new relationship with Klein. His lawyers have kept mum about their defense, but may suggest their client acted in the heat of passion after discovering his wife and Klein having sex and is therefore guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

A downward spiral

Royle Kipp Jr. joined the Collier County Sheriff's Office in 1981 when he was just 23. Over the next 17 years, he rose steadily in rank from a road deputy to the lieutenant.

His personal life was not as smooth. With his first wife, Nancy, who he married in 1982, he fathered two sons. The marriage, however, faltered. In 1989, Nancy Kipp told a judge her husband was violent and made threats against her. The couple divorced in 1990.

The following year, Kipp married Sandra, a petite blond customer service representative at the local hospital. After several years, Sandra gave birth to a daughter, Danielle. The acrimony from Kipp's divorce followed the couple. Nancy Kipp filed a complaint against her ex-husband in 1992, alleging he threatened her and her new boyfriend.

Sandra and Roy Kipp had their own problems. After her death, Sandra Kipp's doctor told police that she had complained to him over the course of five years about her husband's heavy drinking and demeaning comments.

By 1998, Kipp had risen to the upper ranks of the sheriff's office, commanding a police substation. Jeffrey Klein was one of his co-workers. That year, a random drug test brought Kipp's career to an end. He tested positive for marijuana and opted to retire and preserve his pension rather than be fired. A year later, the state revoked his law enforcement certification, ending any hope Kipp held of one day returning to police work.

Through another retired cop, Kipp got a job with an elevator company. His supervisor at the company, aware of Kipp's history, told him that if he caught him drinking or using drugs, he would be fired. The job was in Sarasota and Kipp had to live in the city, away from his family and in a company apartment with other workers.

About the same time, his marriage began to crumble. Sandra Kipp continued complaining to her family and even one of her husband's co-workers about his heavy drinking and bad temper. According to the Naples Daily News, Klein and several other officers tried to help their former co-worker stop drinking. The paper reported that the officers visited Kipp and "nudged" him to get help without much success.

Sandra Kipp had apparently had enough. She told her sister that she did not love her husband anymore, and began taking steps to free herself from the marriage. She enrolled in college courses in hopes of getting a better job and being more independent. Her husband, she confided in her doctor, was furious. He ridiculed her attempts and according to her parents, was fond of telling people "he got her from a trailer park and that she would be nothing without him."

In May, as Sandra Kipp was quietly making plans to move out of the house and into her own apartment, Roy Kipp became convinced that she was cheating on him. Prosecutors acknowledge only that Jeff Klein and Sandra Kipp were friends, but forensic tests from the crime scene indicate that at least on the night of their deaths, they were lovers. A few weeks before the murders, Roy Kipp asked one of her sisters, Wendy Poston, if she had met her new boyfriend and told Poston "that if he ever caught Sandy with another man, he would kill her."

Fatal weekend

On Friday, May 19, 2000, Sandra Kipp told her sister Bobbie Rogers that she had just moved her belongings to a temporary apartment about five miles from the couple's home. Roy Kipp, she told her sister, had begged her to stay, but she left anyway, refusing even to tell him where the new apartment was. If he shows up, she said, I won't let him in.

Danielle Kipp, then 7, remained with her father. The girl spent Saturday playing in the neighborhood and visiting briefly with her mother, who stopped by the house on a break from work. Her father put her to bed that evening.

With his daughter asleep, Kipp tried to contact his wife. Caller ID logs show a call from his number to her new apartment at 10:11 p.m. About 15 minutes later, neighbors in the apartment complex, about a six minute drive away, heard a volley of loud noises which they believed were fireworks. No one called the police.

Sometime before 11:30 p.m., Kipp woke his daughter up and drove her to his brother's house. Bill Kipp told police his brother asked him to watch Danielle, but said little else. Danielle Kipp told investigators her father also called an aunt and asked to borrow a car, explaining that deputies would recognize his truck.

It wasn't until almost 1:30 a.m. that the sheriff's department heard anything about a shooting. Then, former Naples Police Officer Pete Lewkowicz called 911 to report the troubling call he had received from Kipp.

Armed with that tip, deputies drove to Sandra Kipp's apartment. They found the 35-year-old sprawled on the stoop outside her front door. She was wearing a pink neglige and had a single gunshot in her back. Inches from her hand was a portable phone, turned on and dial mode.

Inside the apartment, officers found the body of Jeff Klein, also 35. He was lying in the doorway of the guest bedroom, shot eight times, including twice in the head. His uniform shirt was hanging in the master bedroom closet.

The screened door to the lanai was cut as were the phone lines into the apartment.

The arrest

From information provided by Lewkowicz, police tracked Kipp to the Sarasota apartment where he lived during the week. When he left the apartment at about 7 a.m., Sarasota police arrested him.

Detectives said Kipp seemed very upset and was visibly shaking in the police station. He asked for a lawyer, but made several incriminating statements. He said he "was going to make it easy and turn himself in." He also told officers, "I should not have stopped, I should have just kept going, the only reason I'm here is because I stopped."

According to his lawyer, Kipp fell into a deep depression after the shooting and is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He was treated with anti-depressants and kept on suicide watch. Last February, a psychiatrist testified for the defense that Kipp was unfit to stand trial. Judge Monaco, however, found him competent.

Prosecutor's case

Prosecutors Amira Dajani Swett and Marshall Bower are expected to portray Kipp as a hot-tempered man obsessed with the women who scorned him. It is unclear how they will describe Sandra Kipp's relationship with Klein, but DNA tests on her body revealed semen consistent with Klein's genetic profile.

The prosecutors may concentrate on the phone call confession Kipp allegedly made to his friend Lewkowicz. According to Lewkowicz, Kipp describes going to his wife's apartment, peering through the window and seeing Kipp and Klein together on the couch. Kipp allegedly said he became so enraged by the scene that he cut through the screen door and shot Klein and then his wife.

Prosecutors are also likely to draw jurors attention to a second call, the one he placed to his wife's apartment about 10 minutes before the shooting.

The murder weapon, a 9 mm pistol, in the case has never been recovered.

The defense case

Public defenders Robert Jacobs II and Michael Orlando have indicated they will argue a heat of passion defense and attempt to get jurors to convict Kipp of a lesser charge because his actions came immediately after allegedly discovering his wife's adultery. Last summer, Jacobs said that a sexual relationship between Klein and Kipp "is extremely important to our case."

"We would assert it mitigates the charge to heat of passion," Jacobs told the Naples Daily News. A manslaughter conviction carries up to 30 years in prison.

The defense has also seized on the missing murder weapon and suggested that some of the bullets fired may have come from one of two weapons Klein possessed. His off-duty weapon, a .40-caliber gun, was found in a fanny pack in his locked truck, but his service pistol, a 9 mm gun, is unaccounted for by either the defense or prosecution.

During jury selection, Orlando asked potential jurors questions suggesting police tampered with crime scene evidence to protect Klein.

Defense lawyers have also claimed the phone lines were cut earlier in the day by a cable company employee installing television lines.




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