Anthony Utterback and Ashley Killian were high school sweethearts, dated for years, had a child together.
He viewed her as his first love — the woman he lost his virginity to, according to his attorney.
She viewed him as her ideal husband.
In October 2012, they tied the knot.
But even before they married, their relationship was full of knots.
Killian had begun cheating on Utterback with another young man — an affair that would continue for months after her wedding day.
In turn, the couple's marriage was nothing more than twisted love — jaded, jilted, full of jealousy.
The love triangle ended on Valentine's Day this year, when Anthony Utterback, then 23, pulled out a knife and stabbed his wife's lover.
Ryan O'Donnell, 24, bled to death on top of the crowbar that he had wielded in the moments before his death.
Now, the killing is being played out in Douglas County District Court as Utterback stands trial on a charge of second-degree murder in O'Donnell's death.
His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Cindy Tate, said Utterback acted in self-defense after a confrontation in the front yard. Tate said Utterback, who had futilely tried to salvage his marriage, was simply trying to protect himself after O'Donnell hit him with a crowbar.
Prosecutors painted a different picture.
“Jealousy is a very powerful emotion,” prosecutor Ann Miller said in opening statements. “It's the theme of the defendant and Ashley's relationship. It's that jealousy that drove Utterback to Ryan's home on 12 different occasions. It's that jealousy that led to the deadly encounter on Valentine's Day.”
Killian was stoic on the witness stand, sitting 10 feet from her husband. She paused only once, catching her breath as she described her boyfriend's death at her husband's hands and the relationship that led to it.
Utterback, now 24, and Killian, 23, had met and dated on and off since she was a freshman at Ralston High School in 2004. They began living together in 2008. In July 2011, they had a son.
Utterback worked two jobs, full time as a delivery driver for a Bellevue car dealer and part time as a telemarketer.
Meanwhile, Killian went to school and dated O'Donnell on the side. Killian told Utterback the two were “just friends.”
Then came October 2012. A drunken O'Donnell showed up at the couple's Bellevue home after a Husker football game. Utterback answered the door, and O'Donnell asked for “Ashley.” Killian left with O'Donnell.
Utterback got the picture. Still, he and Killian got married.
“I believed that Anthony was the best thing for me and (our) son,” Killian testified.
The marriage didn't stop the affair. By late October or early November, Killian was back at O'Donnell's home two or three times a week.
Utterback soon put a GPS app on his wife's phone. He began occasionally confronting his wife at O'Donnell's house.
Each time, he would park his car in the street and call her to come out. She would go to Utterback's car and talk. Sometimes she would come home. Mostly, she would not.
Then came December. Utterback went to O'Donnell's house and, according to Killian, caught the two naked in bed.
Passed out from a night of drinking, Killian said, she awoke to O'Donnell rousing her, his face “covered in blood.”
She said her husband later admitted to beating O'Donnell with his fists and boots while O'Donnell slept.
Between that December assault and Feb. 14, Utterback went to O'Donnell's house repeatedly, looking for his wife.
On Feb. 14, Utterback took time between his two jobs to get his wife cards and candy — causing her to gush on Facebook about “how spoiled” she was.
Killian made a Valentine's gift for her husband — “homemade” playing cards listing “all the reasons I loved him.”
She then made plans to go to O'Donnell's house for the night and deliver a bigger, store-bought gift: a large winter blanket.
Meanwhile, Utterback was at a drugstore when he ran into a Bellevue police sergeant.
He asked the sergeant for advice about his stormy marriage.
Go to court, the sergeant said. File for divorce. Work out a child custody plan. And don't go over there anymore.
Utterback didn't heed the advice.
After leaving his second job at 11 p.m. on Valentine's night, Utterback went to O'Donnell's house near 40th and Y Streets to again find Killian's Grand Am in the driveway.
She came out to talk. The two bickered. He begged her to come home. She refused.
Instead of staying inside — as he had previously whenever Utterback showed up — O'Donnell walked onto the front porch.
He held a crowbar, more than a foot long, by his right side and muttered something that Killian couldn't make out.
Utterback called out to O'Donnell: “You got a problem?”
Killian begged Utterback to go back to his car.
Utterback kept walking. The two men met about halfway, in the yard. Defense lawyers say O'Donnell hit Utterback in the leg with a crowbar. Utterback pulled out a knife and plunged it 3 inches deep into O'Donnell's chest.
Though the blade penetrated his heart, O'Donnell made it back to the porch. Before collapsing, he told Killian: “I can't believe he (expletive) stabbed me.”
Utterback walked past his wife, on his way to his car.
His parting words:
“You might want to take him to the hospital.”