Mother-in-Law Springs Alleged Hubby Killer

Accused husband-killer Blythe Coulter-Montanaro was facing the prospect of sitting in jail while she awaited trial, but she got help from an unlikely source: her mother-in-law, Mollie Gatto.

Gatto posted property worth $2 million as bail for Coulter-Montanaro, even though Coulter-Montanaro is accused of fatally shooting Gatto's son, Richard Montanaro.

Speaking on behalf of the slain man's family, Gatto said: "We're behind Blythe 100 percent." She did not offer an explanation, and the family isn't talking.

According to court records, police found Coulter-Montanaro, 48, crying and visibly upset outside the couple's million-dollar home in San Luis Obispo, Calif. She allegedly told them: "I killed my husband."

In subsequent police interviews, Coulter-Montanaro told police her husband was bipolar and prone to mood swings. She said he told her after an argument that he was planning to fly his private plane to Oregon to kill an old boyfriend of hers, and later forced her to load the gun he said he would use.

But, Coulter-Montanaro told police, she hid the gun, and later retrieved it and shot him when he threatened her during another fight, on Feb. 27, after their two teenage sons had left for school.

Coulter-Montanaro pleaded not guilty in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court to one charge of murder in her husband's death, and is set to appear in court for a preliminary hearing in May. But for now she's free, thanks to her mother-in-law.

Love or Emotional Abuse?

The 48-year-old housewife had been married nearly 20 years to Richard, a multimillionaire who built a real estate fortune, including an apartment complex worth at least $8 million.

Richard Montanaro, 48, also had a taste for adventure. His passion for racing cars was fueled when he attended college in San Luis Obispo, where he raced go-karts and designed high-mileage vehicles. Back in the 1970s, Montanaro also flew in a hang-gliding club, where he first met and fell in love with his future wife.

The couple's friends have varying assessments of the marriage.

"Blythe is an extremely intelligent woman," said David Low, one family friend. "Sweet personality. Good housekeeper. He adored her. He adored that woman."

But another friend said Blythe complained that her husband emotionally abused her and said she had contacted a divorce lawyer before the fight that ended with her husband's death.

A Desperate Act?

According to court records, Coulter-Montanaro told police she was frightened and desperate to stop her husband, so she shot him.

One family friend said that it should never have gone that far.

"This should not have happened," Low said. "She could have gotten help, gotten away, moved, made phone calls."

Longtime friends wonder what happened to the marriage in the hillside house that Richard built. And they worry about the future of the Montanaro boys if their mother ends up going to jail.

"I would like his sons to remember their father as a wonderful man," Low said. "He didn't come across as the type of person that would hurt anybody. Nor does Blythe portray herself as anybody that would hurt anybody. She just seems to be just a good, good mom and a good wife."