Judge Robert Morin ruled Wednesday that there was probable cause to hold Dianna Lalchan, 27, at a halfway house on suspicion of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting death of her husband, Christopher Lalchan, last week.
Prosecutors had pursued first-degree murder charges in the case. Defense attorneys argued Wednesday that the killing was in self-defense.
In making his finding of voluntary manslaughter, Judge Robert Morin said Wednesday that “even if [Dianna Lalchan] acted in self-defense, the force was excessive.”
Dianna Lalchan, a pharmacist at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, was arrested last week on a charge of second-degree murder in connection with her husband’s death. Police found Christopher Lalchan lying on the couple’s living room floor with a gunshot wound to the back of his head.
According to 911 call records, Dianna Lalchan called 911 that night. A portion of that call was played in court Wednesday.
On the recording, at the beginning of the call, Dianna Lalchan hesitates to speak. After the dispatcher obtains the address of the incident, Dianna finally says, “My husband was getting violent, and, umm…”
Lalchan paused, and the dispatcher asked where her husband was.
“On the floor,” Dianna Lalchan replied. “I shot him.”
When police arrived they found that Christopher Lalchan had suffered a single gunshot wound to the back of his head. Two other fired bullets were recovered from the scene: one was lodged in the kitchen wall, and the other was fragmented and lodged in the floor right next to Christopher Lalchan’s head, Metropolitan Police Detective Robert Cephas testified Wednesday.
Dianna Lalchan told detectives that she shot her husband as he charged at her. But a medical examiner determined that the bullet entry wound in the back of Christopher Lalchan’s head had a downward angle, which was inconsistent with that description, Cephas testified.
Prosecutors believe that Christopher Lalchan may have ducked and fell when an initial shot did not strike him; then was struck by a subsequent bullet.
Dianna Lalchan told police the evening was the deadly culmination of years of domestic abuse. The abuse “started from the beginning” of their marriage, and Christopher Lalchan would often slap and choke her, she said.
“In the past it got to the point where he would strangle me,” Dianna Lalchan told detectives. “But if he wanted to kill me, I would be dead by now.”
No reports were ever filed with police.
Matthew Hanna, an investigator with the D.C. Public Defender Service, testified that he spoke with several of Dianna Lalchan’s friends and colleagues, and that they all said that Dianna Lalchan had been victimized.
One of the witnesses told Hanna that Dianna Lalchan never reported the abuse because “her husband was going into politics and she didn’t want anything on his record,” Hanna said.
On the evening of March 27, Christopher Lalchan called Dianna around 5 p.m. and asked her to come home so they could “talk about their marriage,” Detective Cephas said.
Dianna Lalchan told detectives that the argument lasted all evening, and at one point Christopher Lalchan picked up a bicycle and threw it across the apartment.
Moments before the shooting, Christopher Lalchan picked up a plastic mop and held it above his head like a baseball bat, Dianna Lalchan told police. They struggled over the mop for a while, but Dianna Lalchan wrestled it from him. The two argued for a few minutes more, then Dianna Lalchan told her husband that she didn’t feel safe. So Christopher Lalchan retrieved a handgun from the bedroom closet and placed it on a television stand in the living room.
In the police interrogation video played in court Wednesday, Dianna Lalchan is seen telling police, “I pretend like I’m scared,” and that she “talked him into getting the gun out of the closet.”
Dianna Lalchan told police that shortly after Christopher Lalchan placed the gun on the television stand so that she would “feel safe,” he lunged at her. So she grabbed the gun and fired three shots.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Wright argued that Dianna Lalchan showed no remorse in the 911 call, and that there was no description of the violence that occurred that night given to the dispatcher.
“The government is certainly sympathetic to the battered woman syndrome,” Wright said. “But the typical things that one would hear in a domestic violence call just weren’t there.”
Judge Morin scheduled a felony status conference on Judge Ronna Beck’s calendar for May 10.