CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati woman who shot her husband in the back of the head in 1984 and buried him in a grave unwittingly dug by her children, a neighbor and the victim’s own father is scheduled for a parole hearing next month.
Linda Lee Couch, 67, is serving a life sentence in the Ohio Reformatory for Women for the aggravated murder of Walter Douglas Couch. She is slated for her next parole hearing on March 30, just days after the 36th anniversary of her post-conviction imprisonment.
Linda Couch was one of the 10 inmates profiled last year on Netflix’s “I Am A Killer.”
See the trailer for Season 2 of the series below.
Prosecutors are adamantly opposed to Couch’s release, according to a statement released Wednesday by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. Andy Nadel, a longtime support staffer who compiles case details for prosecutors, said in the news release that the Couch case was one of the worst he’d seen in his more than 30 years at his job.
“This case stands out among the thousands that I have reviewed as particularly gruesome,” Nadel said. “Shooting her husband in the head is bad enough, but then enlisting her innocent children and unsuspecting father-in-law and neighbor to dig a hole and help bury her husband’s body is chilling.
“Couch deserves every day of her life sentence, and I hope that the community will join our office in opposing her possible parole.”
He ‘never knew what hit him’
According to prosecutors and Cincinnati police, Linda Couch, then 30, shot Walter Couch, 35, in the back of the head the night of Oct. 13, 1984, at their home in Cincinnati’s Price Hill neighborhood. At her trial the following year, where Linda Couch wept and clutched a rosary in her hands, a prosecutor told jurors the victim “never knew what hit him.”
In her testimony, Linda Couch swore she did not intend to shoot her husband, who she said had struck her that night. She alleged that her husband was controlling during their 14-year marriage.
“I didn’t know at the time whether anyone was going to believe me, that this could be an accident,” Couch said.
Instead of calling for help after the shooting, Linda Couch wrapped her husband’s body in a rug and hid it in the basement, prosecutors said. She then enlisted the help of her three young children, Walter Couch’s father and a neighbor in digging a hole in the back yard.
The children were ages 13, 10 and 8 at the time, according to news reports from 1984.
“Think about how brutally cold that is, to involve your children in the burying of their father. The husband’s father, the neighbors,” Deters told Cincinnati’s WKRC in 2018, in advance of Couch’s most recent unsuccessful parole bid.
Watch a 2018 report on the Couch case below, courtesy of WKRC in Cincinnati.
She told them the yard had “drainage issues” and that she wanted to start a garden. After the hole was complete, she had her children help her carry the heavy, rolled-up rug up from the basement and into the back yard.
She then buried her dead husband in the three-foot-deep trench.
“She repeatedly lied to Walter’s close family about his whereabouts,” prosecutors said in Wednesday’s news release. “She told her children that their father had left them. She told her in-laws, who were very close to their son, that he was not home for various reasons.”
Meanwhile, Linda Couch spent $1,300 on new furniture and a new car. She also took the children on a vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Walter Couch’s father, suspicious of his daughter-in-law’s stories about his son’s whereabouts — and the hole he had helped to dig — eventually went back more than a week later with a shovel.
The elder Couch, who died in 2018, unearthed his son’s body.
Deters told WKRC that the crime was “one of the most calculated murders we’ve ever dealt with in Hamilton County’s history.”
“That Battered Wife Syndrome is total BS in this case. That just didn’t happen. It just didn’t happen,” Deters said.
A timeline of the crime created by detectives indicates the murder was thought out well in advance, according to the news station. On Sept. 28, 1984, she forged the deed to the couple’s house.
The two-story house was owned by her husband’s parents, Walter Couch Sr. and Dorothy Couch. According to news reports at the time, the forged paperwork indicated that Linda Couch had bought the house from them for $1.
On Oct. 9, four days before the murder, Linda Couch bought a gun. She picked it up the day before her husband was slain and, on the morning of the murder, she sent the couple’s three children to their grandparents’ house for the weekend.
The children never saw their father alive again.
‘I Am A Killer’
In her episode of “I Am A Killer,” Linda Couch again says that the fatal shooting was an accident. She goes into great detail of the controlling, abusive behavior she says she was subjected to by Walter Couch.
She alleges in the segment that her husband watched and laughed as he allowed his friends to gang-rape her on multiple occasions.
She also alleges that Walter Couch hated their eldest child, a daughter named Roxanne. Linda Couch says her husband would get angry anytime their baby daughter would cry and that, as Roxanne got older, she was also subjected to daily beatings.
The convicted killer says that the fatal argument with her husband was over her enrollment in a college course, which angered her husband. News reports from 1984 indicate that both she and Walter Couch were nursing students at the time of the murder.
They also indicate that Linda Couch filed a lawsuit earlier in 1984 after a professor at their school, the College of Mount St. Joseph, accused her in front of other students of cheating on a biology test. The suit, which sought $155,000, also accused the professor of telling her husband she’d cheated.
The court case was pending when Walter Couch was slain.
Linda Couch said during the argument about school, her husband grabbed the recently-purchased gun after she refused to quit.
“Walt had blue eyes, but he was so mad that I swear his eyes were black,” she says in a video clip from Netflix. “That’s how angry he was.”
Linda Couch said she believed she would die that night.
“All I could think about was, ‘Oh my God, if he kills me, what’s going to happen to Roxanne?’” she says.
She tells the camera that she believes her daughter would have been killed, too.
“So I went after him, and the only thing I could think of was to kick him in the groin,” she says. “He let loose of the gun a little bit, enough that I could grab it, and as I was backing away, I tripped over the back part of the bed, and the gun went off and then shot him in the head.”
Roxanne Couch, who now lives in Ghana, West Africa, has backed up some of her mother’s claims of physical abuse. She said on the Netflix program however, that she does not believe her mother was raped by her father’s friends.
“She’s told so many lies that she believes her own lies,” Roxanne Couch says.
Roxanne Couch also told the Daily Mail in 2019 that her mother “tells stories and she likes to get sympathy.”
Since her conviction, Couch has been denied parole more than half a dozen times. The Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has a webpage where the public can go to send a comment to the parole board regarding Couch’s possible release.