Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Claudine Longet and Spider Sabich

It's Not True!

Seating a jury of 12 local men and women with open minds was not easy. One prospective juror after another said they believed Longet had shot Sabich on purpose.

On the first day of jury selection, Longet sat weeping in a shapeless gray minidress and Frye knee boots as citizens announced her guilt.

"To me, this is all total despair," she told reporters. After three days, a jury of seven men and five women was finally empaneled.

Luger, similar weapon
Luger, similar weapon

Bob Beattie, Sabich's former coach, was the first witness. He said the trial had an oddly genteel tone, as though no one wished to distress Longet.

"The hardest question they asked me was my name," Beattie said.

A police officer followed, testifying that Longet said she pointed the gun at Sabich and said "bang-bang" or "boom-boom."

From her seat at the defense table, Longet all but shouted, "It's not true!" Judge George Lohr failed to admonish her — and a starstruck tone for the trial was set.

Perhaps the most effective defense evidence concerned the handgun, a cheap knockoff of a German Luger that Vladimir Sabich Sr. had purchased while in France to watch his son at the '68 Olympics.

Sabich Sr. gave the gun to his son Steve, who stored it at Spider's chalet. Longet claimed she discovered the gun in a closet on the day of the shooting.

A defense witness said the safety on the gun was defective, and the firing mechanism had been lubricated with too much grease. The witness said it was entirely possible that the gun fired accidentally.

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