A Mountain Home airman whose life was forever changed by a gunman’s bullet wasn’t in Elmore County Court for the sentencing this week of his assailant, Lajuan C. Lee, according to Prosecutor Kristina Schindele.
Michael John Ambeau was washing clothes at a laundromat on Nov. 1, 2014, when a man entered the building, pulled out a gun, shot him once in the abdomen and then fled.
“He has relocated and didn’t have the financial means to return,” Schindele said. Ambeau did provide a written victim’s impact statement, she said, and that was included as part of the pre-sentencing report.
Ambeau, now 38, is doing well now, but medical issues stemming from the shooting ended his 14-year military career, Schindele said. He was discharged from the military.
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“That’s a huge impact on him,” the prosecutor said. He had been back in Mountain Home from a deployment for only a week when he was shot.
Until this week, investigators and the prosecutor had declined to discuss what, if any, connection the two men had. They said only that Ambeau did not know Lee, that the crime was not random, and it did not involve any other illegal activity.
It turns out the men had someone in common. Sometime before the shooting, Lee found out that his girlfriend was Ambeau’s estranged wife. The couple were separated, and Ambeau moved into his own apartment after returning from deployment.
“Mr. Lee did not realize that she was married ... I don’t know what impact that had on his mental health,” Schindele said. Ambeau’s wife confirmed to authorities that she had not disclosed to Lee that she was married.
Schindele said she does not know why Lee shot Ambeau.
“There is no reason to support this confrontation. No relationship between Michael [Ambeau] and his wife. No threat. No risk of harm. No reason.”
Lee’s public defender, Terry Ratliff, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
Lee was sentenced Monday to up to 25 years in prison, but will be eligible for parole after serving 10 years.
Schindele said aggravated battery carries the same maximum penalty as attempted murder — 15 years in prison — but does not require proof of intent to murder someone. The dangerous weapon enhancement doubled the maximum time that Lee was facing to 30 years.
After Lee fled the 2014 shooting, he was found trespassing at a vacant former lumber yard in Ontario, Ore. He was taken into custody and charged before Oregon officers realized he was wanted in connection with the Mountain Home shooting. He waived extradition and was brought back to Idaho to face the felony charges.
Lee’s criminal record includes a 2003 guilty plea for misdemeanor battery in Ada County, online court records show.