MODESTO — The brother of a man shot and killed last month by his wife painted a picture Monday of the couple having a dysfunctional relationship.
Walter Hinton, 64, died after being shot by his wife, Claire Hinton, on Nov. 30. She claims she shot her husband in self-defense after an altercation inside their west Modesto home, police say.
Walter Hinton's brother, Brian Hinton, spoke with The Bee on Monday from his home in Raleigh, N.C.
Walter and Claire Hinton's relationship was embroiled in controversy from the beginning, he said. Claire, Brian Hinton said, was the adopted daughter of Walter Hinton's fifth wife. Walter Hinton left Claire's mother and married her when she was a young adult. There was a more than 30-year age difference between the two. In seven years, they had five children, bringing to 11 the number of children Walter Hinton had.
Brian Hinton said anytime he or other family members would question Walter Hinton about his relationship with Claire Hinton, he would become defensive. As a result, Brian Hinton said, he saw only glimpses of what their relationship was like behind closed doors.
But from conversations with his brother, Brian Hinton said he surmised that Claire Hinton was resentful she had married so young and had five children to care for.
The couple would argue, Brian Hinton said, over money, over the children, over what she perceived as a stolen youth. She'd threaten to leave; he'd threaten to keep the kids from her. Their biggest fights would end with him buying her a new car or a vacation to make up for it, Brian Hinton said.
He said they engaged in "psychological blackmail" against each other.
Describing him as possessive, Brian Hinton said, "My brother felt that he could give her a better future than anyone else."
But he said he never knew his brother to be violent or physically abusive.
Modesto police have said only that Claire Hinton claims she shot her husband in self-defense after an altercation. Investigators would not comment on Brian Hinton's account of the couple's relationship, say what the couple were claimed to be fighting about, or discuss what Claire Hinton said made her feel so threatened she had to use deadly force.
Speaking in general about self- defense cases, Michael Vitiello, a criminal law professor at the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, said using the defense of battered woman syndrome means the victim must have the perception she needed to use deadly force. A history of physical abuse can enhance that perception, but not emotional abuse.
Walter Hinton had not been charged with crimes in Stanislaus or Santa Clara counties, where the couple used to live, according to court records.
Furthermore, he was a military police veteran and retired from Lockheed Martin, which required a clean record for security clearance, Brian Hinton said.
Claire Hinton last week refused an interview with The Bee and would not return phone calls from Walter Hinton's family, Brian Hinton said.
The couple's five children, ages 4 to 11, remain in the care of child protective services.
Modesto police spokesman Lt. Rick Armendariz said detectives continue to investigate the shooting and will give their findings to the district attorney's office upon completion.
The fact Claire Hinton is at home and has not been charged should not be construed as a testament to her claim of self-defense, Vitiello said. He pointed out that George Zimmerman, the man accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida earlier this year, was not charged until more than a month after the shooting.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.