The woman accused of shooting her husband after he said he wanted to end their 30-plus year relationship had $5,600 in cash on her when she was arrested by police Nov. 11, according to testimony in her preliminary hearing Thursday.
Paulette Iliff, 54, was bound over to District Court at the hearing after Circuit Judge Paul S. Phillips found probable cause to suspect her of attempted first-degree murder of her husband, Robert “Bobby” Iliff, and aggravated assault and battery against him when she pointed a gun at him Nov. 7.
She also had been seen throwing away documents near Powder River Dental after leaving the house and going to a friend’s house, where police arrested her, said Gillette Police Cpl. Dan Stroup.
Stroup testified Thursday that when police arrived at the house to arrest her, Paulette Iliff made the unsolicited comment that “she shouldn’t have shot her husband.”
Police knew she was at the house because the friend had called them shortly after Robert Iliff drove himself to the emergency room with a gunshot wound to the chest. The friend told police later that Paulette Iliff had called her to say she had shot her husband, and the friend told her to come to her house. When police arrived, Iliff had self-inflicted knife wounds on her neck and wrists, Stroup said.
Robert Iliff told police that his wife shot him when he arrived home that morning after spending the night at a friend’s house. She also had been away, spending Nov. 10 driving around the state and where Robert Iliff thought was Big Timber, Montana, based on a text she had sent.
Stroup said Thursday that police had learned that she had driven around the state and to Fort Collins, Colorado, where she dropped off some undisclosed property. She spent the night in Wheatland, he said.
When Robert Iliff arrived home about 6:30 a.m. Nov. 11, he saw tire tracks in the driveway, but no vehicle. He also didn’t see footprints in the 4 inches of fresh snow that would have indicated that Paulette had returned home, Stroup said.
But after changing into his work clothes and heading to the kitchen to get his medications, Robert Iliff saw movement out of the corner of his eye and turned to see Paulette standing in the hallway with a gun in her hand, Stroup said.
“I hope you enjoyed your sleepover,” she said and fired the gun, Stroup testified. She also said, “’Till death do us part,” but Stroup said it is now unclear whether the statement was made before or after she allegedly fired.
Robert Iliff felt pain in his chest and fell to the ground, where he begged her not to shoot again as she moved toward him, Stroup said. The man thought about running past her to the door, but he feared she would shoot him in the back, Stroup said. So Robert Iliff stood up and charged her, successfully wresting the semi-automatic handgun from her.
He left the house with the gun and drove himself to the hospital, where doctors found that the bullet had gone through his chest and exited near his left armpit, Stroup said.
Police found evidence that Paulette Iliff had tried to clean up the blood at the house because some of it was smeared when they investigated later. They also found a cooler in her Jeep, which she had left at the City Pool parking lot. In the cooler was a container of disinfectant wipes with blood on the outside, Stroup testified.
Also at the home, police found the bullet lodged in the counter backsplash after shattering a Keurig coffeemaker, Stroup said.
Iliff’s attorney, Steven Titus, questioned Stroup about whether the gun could have gone off in a tussle or if she was charged. But Stroup said that Robert Iliff’s wound appeared to have come from a gunshot a further distance away rather than close up. He said the skin did not have the injection of hot gases that would have appeared if the gunshot would have been closer.
Gunshot residue tests are still being done by the state lab, Stroup said.
The actual shooting followed several days of suspicious behavior by Paulette Iliff outlined by Stroup. Robert Iliff told police that their relationship was “dissolving” and that “he thought that was the catalyst for being shot,” Stroup said.
Robert Iliff told police that he and Paulette argued Nov. 6 after he told her that he was tired of being miserable in their relationship and he wanted to be happy. She was upset and left the house for a while before returning and sleeping in the basement.
The next morning, he was awakened at 5:30 a.m. and found her in his bedroom aiming a handgun at him. He recognized the gun as one that he traded for after winning one at a raffle. The Ruger .45 semi-automatic had been stored in a drawer in the main level bedroom along with ammunition. He’d never shot it and had never loaded it, according to Stroup’s testimony.
She reportedly told Iliff that she was going to kill him and herself because he was going to leave her. He convinced her not to fire the gun but wasn’t able to convince her to give him the gun.
On Nov. 8, she made some “vague, suicidal” texts to him but otherwise was more amicable, Stroup said. On Nov. 9, Robert Iliff found her hiding under some clothes in the backseat of his pickup after arriving home from The Railyard, where he’d gone to watch a college football game with friends, Stroup said. Surveillance video showed her near the vehicle outside the restaurant and lights come on as the keyless entry was activated, he said.
Attempted first-degree murder is punishable by death or life in prison. The aggravated assault, which stems from Paulette Iliff allegedly pointing a gun at Robert Iliff on Nov. 7, carries a maximum 10 years in prison.
She remains in Campbell County jail on a $500,000 cash-only bond.