UTAH STATE PRISON — Each morning David Ragsdale wakes up in a high-security prison cell and remembers that he shot his wife in a church parking lot on her birthday.
"The thought of what I did never goes away," he said in an exclusive interview Thursday with the Deseret News as he was handcuffed to the wall of a small library in the Uintah 3 unit.
"I've lost probably 20 pounds since I've been incarcerated, from depression of what I did," he said. "I took the life of another human being. I can't bring that person back."
When Ragsdale fired 12 gunshots at his wife, Kristy, on Jan. 6, 2008, it was the first time he had ever used his 9mm pistol — a gun he kept in his car's glove box for personal and family protection.
"None of this would have happened if my gun wasn't in my car," he said.
In his mind, he's the painfully perfect poster child for gun control.
"Everybody is going to get in some type of argument," he said. (And) everybody has a breaking point. Why put yourself in a position with having a gun there, and you get in an argument and become enraged and you might use it?"
There's not much use in prison for second-guessing and what-ifs, but Ragsdale insists that he would not have killed his wife without immediate access to a gun.
"I probably would have parked my car, sat there and regained my composure," he said about that snowy Sunday morning in Lehi.
But because the gun was there, he will now have 20 years and possibly his entire life to regain his composure — in prison.
So Ragsdale sits in his drab cell and thinks.
He thinks about the seven prescription medications that changed him and brought on bursts of rage and anger.
Other times he thinks back on his rocky relationship with Kristy and how each of them branched out to other relationships.
He can only think about his two young sons, Brandon and Carter, whom he can't talk to or see.
But the tragic story doesn't begin that snowy Sunday in January. As Ragsdale tells it, it didn't begin that week or even that month. He begins his story eight months earlier, in May.
For the past 14 years, Ragsdale had taken prescription medications to deal with anxiety and depression. Feeling like he needed more help, he went to a nurse practitioner on Kristy's advice and was prescribed five additional medications — including testosterone and steroids.
That was May 2007. By September, Ragsdale didn't like the side-effects — frequent homicidal thoughts and fits of "instant rage," he said.
When he went to the nurse, she said he needed to give the medicines time to "kick in" and "get into (his) system," he said. A promised follow-up visit never happened.
Now he realizes he should have gone to a psychiatrist, not just a nurse.
"The week before (the shooting), I made an appointment with (the practitioner) to try to get off the medicines," he said. "I was going to tell her 'I don't like feeling like this.' "
He never made it.
Those medicines were one of the reasons the marriage began crumbling in late 2007, Ragsdale said. He moved out in October.
"I was the one who left my wife," he said. "We were separated. Most people who are separated date other people."
In phone calls from the Utah County Jail after his arrest, Ragsdale can be heard talking with a woman as they both declare love for each other. Ragsdale called this woman a "very good friend."
He says their relationship, for medical reasons, never became sexual, nor would it constitute a "love triangle."
"I absolutely did not kill my wife to be with another woman," Ragsdale said, shaking his head at the allegations swirling in the public. "What person is going to kill their wife to be with another person? You'll get caught and be in prison for many, many years."
He never planned or plotted to kill Kristy, he said. It was a split-second decision fueled by anger, medication and a lack of judgment.
He talks calmly and deliberately, his voice and eyes dropping slightly as he mentions words like "my wife" and "death."
"It's very hard to live with myself with what I did," he said. "People don't understand the pain and suffering I go through every day for taking my wife's life."
Two days before her death, Ragsdale says he learned that Kristy was involved with another man and had even sent him several sexual text messages.
"I was very enraged," he said. "I had a very, very hard time dealing with that."
Kristy's mother, Ann Palizzi, said she knew the marriage was rife with emotional abuse and financial concerns but didn't know of any specific instances of infidelity on Kristy's part.
"She was reaching out for emotional support and emotional help but not romantic, I don't think," Palizzi told the Deseret News Thursday.
However, the allegations of infidelity fanned the fire and by that Sunday morning, Ragsdale said his emotions were high as the two talked on the phone.
Kristy said she was going to meet with her LDS bishop about the alleged affair and invited Ragsdale to come too, he said.
On the drive from Draper to Lehi, Ragsdale said he grew angrier but never thought about violence. But when he pulled into the parking lot and saw Kristy, he snapped.
"I saw my wife, just went and opened the glove box, got my gun and shot her," he recalled. Kristy was shot 12 times in front of her mother. Then Ragsdale drove away.
"Everything registered when I got back on the freeway, I was back to my proper state of mind," Ragsdale said. "It felt like a nightmare. I thought to myself, 'Did I really kill my wife?' "
Ragsdale ended up at his brother's house, then at the Lehi police station.
"All the time at my brother's house I was crying and bawling about how sorry I was for what I did," he said. "I wasn't in my right mind. The homicidal thoughts, the feeling that something took over my body. It felt like I had no control at all."
Ragsdale knows he alone pulled the trigger and committed the crime, but he also believes he wouldn't be shackled to a prison wall if that gun hadn't been in his car.
During Ragsdale's sentencing for aggravated murder, several neighbors said Ragsdale's actions had prompted them to buy guns to protect themselves and their families. Defense attorney Dusty Kawai recalls Ragsdale's immediate reaction.
"He turned to me and said, 'Don't they realize that this wouldn't have happened if I didn't have my concealed weapons permit?' " Kawai said.
It's just one more "what if" for Ragsdale to think about.
"I want people to somehow forgive me for what I did," he said. "I'm not a monster, I'm not a bad person. I'm a human being that has faults. I made a terrible mistake. The mistake I made is the biggest mistake you could make in life. I'm very sorry for what I did. I take responsibility."