Michael A. Luedecke is free on $500,000 bond after a Henrico County judge concluded Monday that a first-degree murder charge doesn’t necessarily mean he represents a flight risk or a continuing threat to the community.
Filling a courtroom, friends and family members of the 21-year-old Transportation Security Administration worker charged with murdering his father last Monday helped paint an image of the victim as a controlling, threatening man who angrily vowed to kill his family in the midst of a struggle over a semiautomatic rifle.
“This house was an explosion ready to happen,” argued defense lawyer Jeffrey Oppleman, describing in his opening argument that Jeffrey L. Luedecke, 51, was so prone to violence that he beat his wife and once threatened to kill his own mother.
A neighbor even kept a log of threatening behavior, Oppleman said, but the conduct largely remained known only within the confines of the home.
Testimony revealed Luedecke, a home repair worker, took some 20 different medications to control anxiety and other behavioral problems and that he was an isolated, paranoid weapons collector who had amassed 33 firearms in the small bungalow-style home in the 8800 block of Midway Road south of Patterson Avenue near Parham Road.
“He’s the peacemaker,” mother Tammy Leudecke testified about Michael, whose father physically towered over the family and was given to fits of rage. “There was a gun in every room,” she said.
Jonathan Luedecke, 18, a Tucker High School student, testified that the night of the shooting Nov. 18 his father had grown increasingly angry, berating his wife, holding Michael in a chokehold and then entering Jonathan’s room.
Jonathan testified that it was his job to clean many of the weapons in the home and he and his father grabbed almost simultaneously for an AR-15, struggling over it as the father screamed he was going to kill everyone.
It was unclear how much time elapsed over the course of the evening before the shooting occurred, but Jonathan testified that he’d told his older brother to get a weapon because he feared how angry his father had become.
Michael Luedecke came up behind his father in Jonathan’s room as the struggle over the AR-15 went on and Jonathan, his vision blocked by his father, said he heard two shots from the handgun. One went through a door and the other entered near the top of Jeffery Luedecke’s head, killing him.
Michael Luedecke listened to the proceedings from a jail cell by video camera, stopping from time to time to dab tears from his eyes.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Amy Curtis was able to draw from Jonathan Luedecke that the AR-15 was back in a safe when police arrived and Judge Deglau said that element raised some questions in her mind about what was going on in the house. Curtis also was able to establish that the father was not armed when he was shot.
But the judge stressed that it wasn’t the purpose of the hearing Monday “to try the victim” and she concluded that while Michael Luedecke was not a flight risk and not a threat, he warranted an unusually large bond.
A TSA co-worker described the Freeman High School graduate as an exceptional employee who had been hired almost three years ago and worked an after-midnight shift. Luedecke carried a nearly straight-A average at Douglas Freeman High School.
Tammy Luedecke, the mother of the boys and wife of the victim, testified that she’s been beaten by her husband in the past and that he was especially angry the night of the shooting.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for February.