SPOKANE, Wash. - After a second Spokane jury last month found Shellye Stark guilty of killing her husband Dale in 2007, she was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years in prison.
Stark was convicted on Sept. 21 on a single charge of first-degree murder for the shooting death of her estranged husband Dale Stark. Her conviction and sentencing came after an appellate court overturned her 2009 conviction on a technicality over jury instructions.
The jury at her second trial found she was not guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
Stark's defense did not change between her first and second trials, maintaining that she shot Dale in self-defense after she claimed to have enduring years of abuse and forced prostitution.
Spokane police saw through Stark's alibi from the very beginning. She had taken an onion, cut it in half and left the knife on the kitchen counter so when her ex-husband Dale came home she could claim he was reaching for that knife when she shot him in the back and killed him.
"She came from California, she set this up. The facts are very clear. She sat there and shot a man in the back four times and walked up while he laid there dying and shot him in the groin," Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla said.Stark sentenced
Stark never denied gunning down her estranged husband; instead she claimed the shooting was the culmination of 24 years of abuse at the hands of Dale Stark, a man she says forced her into prostitution to pay his gambling debts.
"The person who caused the fear and abuse in my sister's case was the one person who was supposed to love and care about her. Her husband Dale Stark," Shellye Stark's sister, Donna Haggerty, said.
Stark says the night of the shooting she was only trying to serve Dale with a domestic violence protection order, however detectives think Dale was killed so she could collect his $400,000 life insurance policy.
The couple's 17-year-old son, Christopher Stark, witnessed the killing and asked the court to show his mother leniency at her sentencing Tuesday.
"My mother has been in prison for the past five years. I've lost [one] parent already, I'm asking the state not to take another," he said.
In the end Judge Tari Eitzen who, after Stark's trial in 2009 sentenced her to more than 50 years in prison. Eitzen agreed giving Stark the low end of the sentencing range as a courtesy to her son.
"By not adding those extra months or years to Mrs. Stark's sentence she will at least at some point in her life have an opportunity to spend some time with Christopher when she's older," Judge Eitzen said.
Inmates convicted of murder do not earn good time and so even with credit for time served start still faces another two decades in prison, which means Stark will be at least 70 years old when she's released.