A daughter testified Thursday to her mother’s innocence in killing her father in their Cache home.
The state called Sarah Van Buren to testify in the trial of her mother, Loretta Michell Van Buren, 62. Loretta Van Buren is on trial for the death of her husband, Terry, in September 2019. The prosecution alleges she killed him and staged the scene to look like a suicide.
The mother and daughter continue to live in that home.
Sarah Van Buren described a loving family up until the last years of her father’s death. She said the dynamic changed as his health worsened and his business faltered. She said he’d twice spoken about killing himself to her. But, she said, her mother would always defend him when he acted out.
“I know he was depressed and had some physical ailments I believe affected his mental health,” she said. “I knew it was possible. He had spoken about it before.”
When defense counsel John Zelbst cross-examined the daughter, he began with one question:
“Did your mom kill your dad?”
“No,” Sarah Van Buren said. She said none of the family believe Terry Van Buren’s death is anything other than a suicide.
On the day of his death, Sarah Van Buren said, she and Loretta Van Buren texted each other around 3:45 p.m. and her mother said her father was “in a helluva mood.” She said she would be home around 5 p.m. to eat dinner; Terry Van Buren had told his wife to go to the store earlier in the day, according to her statement to the 911 operator she called after returning to the home to find him dead.
When Sarah’s brother, Adam, called to tell her the father had died, Sarah Van Buren said she at first didn’t believe it. When investigators inquired about her mother’s potential involvement, she said that wasn’t possible: “Mom loved him, she defended him.” His failing mental and physical health and business was enough for her to believe he ended his own life.
“Because his business had failed and he felt like he failed,” she said. “It was 100 percent him taking his own life.”
Finally, Zelbst asked Sarah Van Buren about her mother’s feelings since the death of her husband.
“Does your mother still grieve?” he queried.
“Yes,” she said.
Testimony will continue today when Loretta Van Buren is expected to testify.