Stark guilty of killing her husband



Posted on August 15, 2009 at 3:20 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 29 at 12:59 PM

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SPOKANE -- A jury has found Shellye Stark guilty of first degree murder in the shooting death of her estranged husband, Dale, in the couple's home on Spokane's South Hill in December of 2007.

Stark leaned down on the desk in front of her as the verdict was read in court just before 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

She faces a minimum of 45 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for April 9th at 1:30pm.

The jury deliberated for about seven hours before delivering their verdict.

In closing statements on Tuesday, jurors heard Stark's attorneys say she shot her husband in self-defense, then listened to prosecutors say none of that is true.

Stark was visibly upset as she listened to lawyers paint two pictures of the night she killed her husband, Dale.

Prosecutors said her actions were planned and precise. They said she got a handgun from her sister and bought bullets days before.

"Ultimately that plan ended with the execution of Mr. Stark," said prosecutor Larry Haskell.

Prosecutors said Shellye was the beneficiary on Dale's $400,000 life insurance policy. They characterized her motive as money for her new boyfriend and anger at Dale.

However, Stark's defense attorneys said that anger stemmed from years of physical and sexual abuse during the couple's 23-year marriage.

"It is not against the law to own a gun," said Russell Bradshaw, Stark's defense attorney. "It is not against the law to arm yourself."

Stark testified last week that her husband forced her into prostitution to pay the bills.

"She did it because she was forced," said Bradshaw. "She did it because they needed money."

At the time of Dale's death, the couple was close to a divorce agreement.

Shellye was living in California at the time and Dale was in their South Hill home.

According to the couple's son, Chris, Shellye came back when he asked her to take custody of him.

She got a restraining order and turned down offers by police to serve it on Dale.

With her son and nephew by her side, Shellye said she went to the house, but said she never planned on Dale coming home while she was there.

Prosecutors said Shellye expected a confrontation and even told the boys to get out when Dale showed up, apparently surprised and confused.

"If she didn't intend to be there, why did she need a gun?" questioned Haskell to the jury.