Blazej Kot and his beautiful wife Caroline sat side by side at the computer in the lounge of their cozy home in Ithaca, New York State on a warm June evening in 2009 looking at their wedding pictures and deciding which to download onto Facebook for their friends.
No wonder they held hands as they looked at the images of that wonderful day in Costa Rica three weeks earlier ... the 28-year-old redheaded bride bare-foot and ecstatic on the beach, her white gown blowing in the wind... the 25-year-old white-suited groom, smiling proudly, his arm round his new wife's waist.
Blazej Kot, of Polish ancestry, had come to America via New Zealand to study for a PhD at Cornell University. Caroline Coffey, Dublin born, had lived in the US since she was two. They had met at Cornell, where she was doing post-doctorate cancer research, fallen in love and married. Everyone remarked on how well-suited they were and how happy they looked.
Who could have guessed just how soon the dream of love would turn to a fatal nightmare? Less than an hour after Caroline had uploaded her photographs onto Facebook they became her epitaph.
She was found early the following morning by a horrified neighbour lying less than 400 yards from her apartment, her head battered by an iron pipe, her throat crudely slashed by a razor-sharp carpet-cutting knife.
She had died slowly and painfully in the night from loss of blood but by that time her killer was already under arrest. He had tried to avoid justice by slitting his throat but emergency surgery foiled his attempt and now he was faced with the enormity of what he had done.
"I don't know what came over me to do this," Blazej Kot told detectives. "We had a wonderful future planned together and loved each other so much. I did this terrible thing and there is nothing I can do about it. I am in a living hell."
In an attempt to unravel the mystery surrounded the violent death of his wife, detectives looked into the history of Blazej Kot and found he had been born in Zaire from Polish ancestry but had lived most of his life in New Zealand. He had come to the US on a temporary student visa but when he met and married Caroline Coffey he was able to claim US citizenship. The couple's family and friends were delighted by the marriage because the couple seemed so happy together.
Academically, Caroline was streets ahead of her husband — she had achieved her doctorate and was working in cancer research. Her professor called her his protégée and showed her off to other students as an example of what they could achieve if they were prepared to work hard.
Kot, on the other hand, found academic work difficult and had to re-sit several exams. He insisted that he admired his wife's abilities and didn't resent her success but friends would say he admitted to being frustrated and had several times nearly resigned from his course.
But none of this justified Kot's murder of his wife and his violent behaviour both before and after the crime. A Tompkins County Court jury would hear that after murdering his wife, Kot tried to burn down the house by sprinkling the rooms and furniture with solvents, lacquer and varnish.
As black smoke filled the rooms, Kot grabbed a bag and rushed out to his car wearing only a dressing gown. He drove eight miles to Taughannock Falls State Park and parked under a tree where he was spotted by a police officer who noticed dried blood on the driver's arms.When he tapped on the window, Kot drove off at high speed, leading police on a hair-raising five-mile chase at speeds of over 90mph before driving off the road into some bushes.
He was found still behind the wheel bleeding heavily from wounds which doctors later found were self-inflicted. While being treated by paramedics Kot seemed disorientated and asked where his wife was and if she was OK.
Eventually he was airlifted to an intensive-care hospital in Pennsylvania where he received emergency treatment for a serious wound which had paralysed one of his vocal cords.
Later that day Kot was charged with murder and arson and ten months later appeared before a jury in a case which defence lawyer Joe Joch described as the strangest in his long career.
For although Kot had admitted killing his wife and disputed none of the facts of the case, the defence were hoping to persuade the court to convict him on the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter on the grounds that he acted under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance and was not responsible for what he did.
Prosecutor Andrew McElwee told the court that police had failed to find any real motive for Kot to murder his wife.
"There was no life insurance, no love triangle and no lucrative will or legacy, so what had happened?"
According to the prosecution, Kot had simply felt trapped by the circumstances of his life and was feeling academically pressured by his successful wife.
He acted, said the prosecution, out of anger and frustration in a desperate attempt to change his life and, in his own words, "walk away from all this."
Defence lawyer Joch argued that there was another explanation, and called psychiatrist Dr Rural Houghtalen who had conducted more than 16 hours of interviews with Kot — and believed that the defendant was "concealing a paranoid inner turmoil" resulting in a mental breakdown which led to Caroline's death.
But this theory was contested by prosecution psychiatrist Dr Gary Horwitz, who testified that in his opinion, Kot had no emotional disorders at the time of the crime and that he killed his wife "because he saw her as an impediment to the type of life he wanted to live."
This was contested by Kot himself when he gave evidence on the second week of the trial. Speaking in a croaking voice caused by his damaged throat, Kot told Judge John Rowley and a jury that his feelings of unreality intensified after his wedding and he calmly worked out a plan to kill his wife while they were looking at their wedding photographs.
He told a hushed court: "At some point I started thinking: 'Wouldn't it be great if something tragic happened to Caroline?'
"I hoped she'd die in a car crash and considered the possibility of hiring someone to kill her. Then I decided to do it myself. I thought I would just grab her, and stab her and run away."
In his final speech, Prosecutor McElwee dismissed all claims that Kot was suffering mental problems. "The defence want you to accept a fantastical explanation but the simplest is often the best," he said.
"Sometimes murder is just murder".
After a seven hour deliberation, the jury agreed. Blazej Kot was found guilty of second-degree murder and jailed for a minimum of 25 years.