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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: jury trials

Murder suspect chooses trial over deal

A woman charged in connection with the 2011 killing of Nicholas J. Thoreson appeared in court but chose not to accept a plea agreement.

 Breeanna C. Sims, 20, faces the charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, rendering criminal assistance, arson and the taking of a motor vehicle.

Sims appeared Wednesday before Superior Court Sam Cozza but the hearing did not proceed.

“It appears we don't have a meeting of the minds,” Deputy Prosecutor Kyle Treece said. “If we have a plea agreement at some point, we will notify the court.”

Reached after the hearing, defense attorney Tim Trageser said “we're going to trial,” which is currently set for June 18.

Sims was charged with her younger brother, Justice E.D. Sims, 19, who previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 33 years in prison. Also charged are Taylor J. Wolf and Britney Bjork. Their cases also are pending.

Detectives believe the Simses and Wolf beat Thoreson in a garage at the Knotty Pines apartment complex, 13615 E. Trent Ave., in Spokane Valley before shooting him to death. 

Thoreson's charred remains were found in the back of his 1987 Ford Thunderbird near Forker and Bigelow Gulch roads April 13, 2011. Detectives arrested the Simses two days later.P

ast coverage:

Dec. 6: Murder suspect's love letters seized

May 20: Sibling murder suspects plead not guilty

May 3: Homicide victim remembered in obituary

April 21: New details released in Forker Road homicide


  

Rapist’s civil commitment overturned

Appellate judges ordered a new trial today for Spokane man convicted in 2009 of being a sexually violent predator because the note he wrote, detailing his desire to rape, kidnap and dismember a woman, was never communicated to anyone and thus did not meet the required legal definition of a threat.

 As part of the elements to qualify him as a sexually violent predator, the state must show that convicted rapist Shawn D. Botner committed an “overt act” toward committing another sex crime. Because of the decision Tuesday, Botner is expected to face another trial to determine whether he will remain in state custody indefinitely.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 25, 2009: Sex offender's fate rests with jury

11 of 12 jurors wanted to convict Moore

Shellye Stark testifies in Spokane County Superior Court on March 12, 2009. (SRarchives)

One juror.

 That's what stood between Brian Leigh Moore and felony convictions for first-degree murder and conspiracy to first-degree murder.

Eleven jurors wanted to convict Moore (pictured left) on both charges, but one juror refused.

A mistrial was declared Monday.

Prosecutors plan to retry Moore, possibly in August or September, for the Dec. 9, 2007, shooting death of Dale Robert Stark (pictured right), who was killed in his home at 1620 S. Maple St., by his estranged wife, Shellye Stark.

 Shellye Stark claimed self-defense and years of domestic abuse but was convicted by a jury, though that conviction was thrown out because of technical errors and she now faces a new trial.

Moore, who turned 46 on May 8, already is a convicted felon. He pleaded guilty to weapons charges in federal court in California related to unregistered guns and homemade silencers found at his warehouse in Anaheim when Spokane police arrested him there in April 2009. Jurors at this trial did not know about those convictions, nor did they know the outcome of Stark's 2009 trial.

Moore traveled to Spokane just before Shellye Stark's trial and met with this reporter at Neato Burrito. He discussed what he said was a history of abuse by Dale Stark against Shellye Stark and said he continued to face questions about the homicide. He alleged misconduct by the police department and said they were grasping at straws. “They've got nothing,” he said in March 2009.

But 12 jurors had little trouble convicting Stark (pictured above and left) of first-degree murder.  She was sentenced to 51 years in prison but is back in the Spokane County Jail awaiting her new trial.

Eleven jurors wanted to convict Moore of the same thing. That's after hearing from Moore himself, who admitted to spending some of Dale Stark's money after his death but said he was just trying to help the woman he loved pay her legal bills.

Moore is married, though separated, with one son. In a letter to the federal judge who sentenced him on the weapons charges, Moore said the effects of his arrest and imprisonment have been “to say the least, dramatic.”

“I have lost everything, from my good name, to the respect of my son,” Moore wrote. “I can not begin to express my shame.”

A key witness for the prosecution was Ted Pulver, a private investigator hired by Stark and Moore. He told jurors Moore essentially admitted to helping orchestrate the serving of the restraining order so that Dale Stark would grow angry and Shellye could say she shot him in self defense. (The defense had a witness tell jurors that Pulver does not have a good reputation for telling the truth.)

In his closing argument, Moore's lawyer, Jeff Compton, pointed to what he said was a discrepancy in Pulver's testimony. Pulver told jurors Moore claimed to have had Shellye's son and nephew briefed on the plan, but Compton said the two entered the picture at the last minute after Shellye's sister was badly injured in a car crash with a bull moose while driving to Spokane from Priest River.

“Unless the moose was in on this, unless Brian Moore can control wildlife, what he has claimed to have said by Ted Pulver makes no sense,” Compton said. If Moore did plan where “the boys” were to be positioned, shouldn't the son and nephew be charged, too? “How about the moose? Should this be the state of Washington versus Bullwinkle J. Moose?” Compton said.

The moose is a timeless aspect of this case that really does just appear out of nowhere.

In Shellye's 2009 trial, the jury foreman said the moose was viewed as divine intervention that failed. After Moore was arrested, it was revealed in court documents that he'd told his wife he was traveling to the Spokane area because he was working on a case involving a woman who had crashed into a moose. (Moore's wife did not learn of the homicide until June 2008.)

Police say Moore tried to escort women he was having sex with for money to pay for Shellye's defense. A woman he had sex with just after learning of Dale Stark's homicide told police Moore mailed her husband a graphic letter and provocative photos of her after she refused to take money out of her equity line of credit on her home in order to help Shellye.

A yellow Pontiac Solstice convertible bought with Dale Stark's life insurance money remains in Spokane police custody. It was seized in California when Moore was arrested.

Past coverage:

Aug. 6, 2010: Theft charged dropped against Stark's father

Moore defense gives closing argument

Brian Moore's lawyer Jeff Compton thanked jurors for their service and said when the trial ends, they'll go on with their lives.

But, Compton said, “what happens here with Brian Moore stays with him for the rest of his life.”

Compton disputed testimony from private investigator Ted Pulver, who told jurors Tuesday that Moore said he had planned where “the boys (Shellye's son and nephew) would be positioned when Dale Stark arrived home.

Compton reminded jurors that they were only there because Shellye's sister had hit a bull moose when driving from Priest River to Spokane to give Shellye a gun. The nephew and son were enlisted to get the gun and help Shellye serve the restraining order instead of her sister. It was a last-minute move that Moore had nothing to do with, Compton said.

“Bottom line is Ted Pulver messed up,” Compton said. “Unless the moose was in on this, unless Brian Moore can control wildlife, what he has claimed to have said by Ted Pulver makes no sense.”

(The jury foreman in Shellye's first trial said the jurors viewed the moose as divine intervention that failed.)

Compton reminded jurors of Shellye's claim of self defense.

“Before you even look at Brian Moore, you have to look at the claim of self defense,” Compton said. “There is no burden for us to prove to you that self defense was necessary.”

He reminded jurors of Christopher Stark's testimony that his father had a bad temper and would get very angry and throw things. He emphasized the seriousness of a teen boy being so afraid of his own father.

“No matter how you feel about Shellye Stark's actions,” Compton said. This isn't about her. It's about Moore.
Compton said testimony from probate attorney Mel Champagne showed the life insurance wouldn't pay out if Dale was killed.

“Without that, there really is no major motive,” Compton said. “This really is a ridiculous sort of plan, because they've set up a plan where the person who need to inherit does the killing. It's absolutely ludicrous, because Shellye Stark couldn't get it (the payout.)”

He said prosecutors seem to think Moore and Shellye were smart enough to plot a ruder but dumb enough to forget to secure the payout.

“It's simply ludicrous to suggest you would miss something so important,” Compton said.

Compton also said the idea that Chris Stark's trust fund is a “sham fund” is ridiculous. It was just an 18-year-old kid blowing money.

He said the idea that they plotted the murder to get Dale's assets if ridiculous because Shellye had equal ownership of their assets.

He pointed to the 911 recording of Shellye absolutely hysterical after the shooting as proof it wasn't planned.

“If that's acting, Ms. Stark missed her calling in life,” Compton said. “That's beyond Meryl Streep good.”
He reminded jurors that there's no proof Moore gained any money through this. No proof of big transactions to his bank accounts, etc.

“There's some big cash withdrawals, that's a fact, but there's no evidence it went to Brian Moore,” Compton said.

“The state has twisted this into some plot that never existed,” he said. Compton said that, under the state's reasoning, Shellye's entire family should be charged with murder. If Moore said he planned where “the boys” were to be positioned, shouldn't the son and nephew be charged, too?

“How about the moose? Should this be the state of Washington versus Bullwinkle J. Moose?” Compton said.

Compton said jurors can find a conspiracy if they try, but “you can read evil into anything you want.”

“In the end, Brian Moore was simply anxious to help the woman he loved,” Compton said. “We ask you to send this man home. We ask you to find him not guilty of both counts.”

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla is giving a brief rebuttal now. He pointed to Compton's statement that the plan couldn't have exisited because it was so poorly thought out.

“People do riciulous things all the time,” Cipolla said. “If they didn't I wouldn't have a job.” He said Chris Stark never reported physical abuse by his father, and that Shellye even said in divorce filings that she wasn't afraid, she just wanted to be left alone.

“When did the idea of a restraining order come up? Right there,” Cipolla said, pointing to Moore.

“Mr. Moore was not in love with Ms. Stark,” Cipolla said. “He was a greedy man.”

Cipolla pointed to evidence that Shellye had contacted lawyers like Julie Twyford prior to the shooting. Compton said she was looking for family law attorneys. Cipolla said she already was looking for defense attorneys because she planned to kill her husband as instructed by Brian Moore.

Cipolla reminded jurors that Pulver said Moore - Shellye's pimp - needed money so he could retire.

The jury of nine women and three men will begin deliberating today but is expected to continue Thursday at 9 a.m.

Moore prosecutor gives closing argument

Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell told jurors they've heard evidence of pre-meditated murder of Dale Stark as they hared testimony in the trial of Brian Moore.

“You've also heard evidence of twisted love and manipulation,” Haskell said.

He said the actions of Moore and Shellye Stark “took this man right there” as jurors saw a photo of a smiling Dale Stark “and turned him into that man right there” as a photo of Stark's bullet riddled body appeared on a TV screen in front of the jury.

“The reason we're here is because Dale Stark was shot to death. The question before you is 'What is Mr. Moore's liability for that?”

Haskell detailed instructions about the charges - first-degree murder and conspiracy to first-degree murder.

He said jurors don't need proof of an actual written agreement to find evidence of conspiracy.

“You can look at conduct of individuals involved in determine whether or not” it appears they acted in accordance with an agreement,” Haskell said.

He pointed to defense lawyer Jeff Compton's statement that this case is an example of law enforcement's imagination running wild, and about Moore's testimony that he was just trying to help Shellye. He also reminded jurors that Shellye traveled to Spokane to obtain a restraining order on her own.

“This is a woman that is so utterly terrified of Dale Stark, according to Brian Moore, that she comes up here on her own to do this herself,” Haskell said.

Haskell reminded jurors that Moore told Shellye to get a gun with hollow point bullets. He also questioned Moore's testimony that he never took Shellye to a shooting range in California.

Haskell said Shellye serving the restraining order was key to Moore's plan.

“It gets her in the house. It gets a reason to be there and it gets a reason to kick Dale Stark out of his house,” Haskell said. He pointed to testimony from private investigator Ted Pulver, who described to jurors Tuesday Moore's admission of the murder plot.

“This plan as designed to put Dale Stark in the most disadvantageous position he could be in,” Haskell said.

Haskell questioned why Shellye asked her 300 pound, 6-foot-2 nephew Dale Johnson to leave before she served the order if she was so deathly afraid of Dale Stark.

Haskell said Dale Stark never had a chance to attack Shellye.

“He came home and he was executed, just per the plan,” Haskell said.

Haskell reminded jurors that Moore said he learned of Dale's life insurance policy on the news after the murder, even though Moore wrote a document that mentioned the life insurance well before that. He questioned Moore's honesty on the stand today, reminding jurors that though Moore told them exact dates of threatening phone calls from Dale, he couldn't remember those dates in earlier interviews with police.

Haskell read an email from Dale to Moore in which Dale apologizes, makes no threats and says he'll leave them alone to live their lives.

Haskell also reminded jurors of testimony from probate attorney Mel Champagne that didn't refute the motive for the case as defense lawyers said. Champagne said the trust fund created for Chris Stark was one of the most unique he'd seen.

“In six months, that money was gone,” Haskell said. But not before Moore got a new car.

“The state would submit that that trust had everything to do with Brian Moore and Shellye Stark's interest, and very little to do with Christopher Stark's interest,” Haskell said.

Haskell reminded them of checks forged from Dale Stark by Christopher Stark, which were cashed by Shellye's father, Curtis Johnson.

He pointed to a letter Moore wrote to Shellye's sister, Donna Haggerty, form jail. Haggerty told jurors she couldn't read it aloud because it would make her sick. Jurors will have that letter during deliberations. He also reminded them that Moore had a credit card belonging to Dale Stark when police arrested him in California.

In conclusion, Haskell reminded jurors tha Moore claimed to be upset by the homicide but then had sex with a secretary on his office couch - the same couch detectives sat on to interview him.

“And when informed of this by Detective Hollenbeck, he laughed and said 'yeah, you're probably sitting in my DNA right now,” Haskell told jurors.

Court is on a brief break before Jeff Compton gives his closing argument.

Moore testimony ends; defense rests

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla didn't hold out when he began cross examination of Brian Moore.

His first question touched on what authorities say is a pattern of deceitfulness and sordid behavior by Moore.
Cipolla pointed to Moore's statement that he was very upset when he learned of Shellye's involvement in the homicide.

“Isn't it true on the date of this homicide you were sleeping with another woman?” Cipolla asked.

Moore said that was true.

“So at that time, your love for Ms. Stark wasn't as great as it was today?” Cipolla asked.

Moore said he wouldn't characterize it that way.

Moore also admitted to lying about his education in a sworn document. He said he took the document very seriously “Obviously by your signature and misstatement,” Cipolla replied sarcastically.

Cipolla went through emails from Dale Stark and had Moore admit they didn't contain threats to kill.

Cipolla asked Moore why he was accessing Dale's accounts. Moore said Shellye gave him power of attorney.
Cipolla disputed Moore's responses several times as being dishonest, then stopped, saying it would “be fruitless.”

On re-cross, Cipolla asked if it would be prudent to provide emails with death threats in the retaining order, and Moore said that it would.

The defense rested. The prosecution recalled Detective Kip Hollenbeck as a rebuttal witness. Cipolla asked Hollenbeck if his reports were accurate, and Hollenbeck said that they were. He said Moore said he never heard direct death threats.

Court is on a break until 1:30 p.m. Jurors will then hear instructions and closing arguments.

Moore denies involvement in Stark killing

Brian Moore told jurors today that he never plotted with Shellye Stark to kill her husband and never planned to stage the shooting to look like self defense.

He said he had no idea Shellye serving her husband with a restraining order would end in a shooting.

“If I had I never would have let her come up here,” Moore said.

He said he was shocked to learn of the shooting from Shellye's nephew, Dale Johnson.

“I was hysterical,” Moore said. Moore said he learned on the Internet that Stark had been arrested for first-degree murder. “Honestly I was so hysterical I was a little vague on all of this.”

Moore said he took the initiative to find a lawyer for Shellye and help her with her legal case. He said he was concerned about getting Shellye out of jail and used his money to help post bail.

Moore said they were looking at at least $80,000 right off the bat. He spent $15,000 initially, then probably that amount again. He said he didn't get extra money from Shellye's son's trust fund, and said the Pontiac Solstice bought with the money was a present from Shellye's son.

Moore said he still plans to marry Shellye Stark.

“My name was put on the car simply because we were going to get married,” he said.

Moore, 46, of Orange, Calif., is separated with a 19-year-old son.

 Moore's testimony comes on what could be the last day of his first-degree murder and first-degree conspiracy to commit murder charges for the 2009 shooting death of Shellye Stark's husband, Dale Robert Stark.

Court is on a brief break right now. Then prosecutors will cross examine Moore.

Prior to Moore taking the stand, defense lawyer Jeff Compton called Ted Ponticelli of Post Falls to refute incriminating testimony given Tuesday by private investigator Ted Pulver, who had been hired by Stark and Moore but went to police and said he had concerns about Moore.

Ponticelli said Pulver had a “bad” reputation for truthfulness. Judge Greg Sypolt had limited Pontieclli's testimony to exclude statements about private investigators in Kootenai County not trusting Pulver and the Idaho Department of Corrections not being willing to work with him.

Compton also played the recording of Stark's phone call to 911 the night she shot Dale Stark on Dec. 7, 2009.

Stark is hysterical and difficult to understand as she screams and wails as a dispatcher assures her police are on their way to 1620 S. Maple St.. (Read a past story on the tape here.)

Moore, who described himself as a paralegal and small business owner, told jurors he met Shellye through a website designed to help prostitutes and clients meet each other “and do it in a safe manner.”

Moore met Shellye in person when they both arrived to help a mutual friend.

“I was impressed,” Moore said. “I mean, she's not a beauty queen. She's not a model…she's a human. When she smiled the room would light up. She had a great personality and she was a great human. I fell in love with her.”

Moore said they began to spend time together socially. He denied ever seeing her “professionally” and said he learned she was an escort in September 2007. He also learned she was married.

“I basically told her she needed to file for divorce,” Moore said. Why? “She told me she didn't want to be married any longer to this man,” Moore said.

So Shellye went to Alaska to meet with Dale and try to settle things. Moore said the agreement they came up with was very unfair to Shellye.

“I was shocked. I was absolutely stunned by the paperwork,” Moore said. “…It was something that clearly came about form what I presumed to be duress or stress or some sort of coercion.”

Moore said Shellye was expected to pay spousal support, but she had quit working as a prostitute and had no money while Dale was working regularly and making good money.

Moore told jurors he encouraged Shellye to tell her family about her work as a prostitute so Dale couldn't hold it over her anymore. “She had been so abused for so long,” Moore told jurors of Stark.

Moore said he's never traveled to Spokane prior to the shooting of Dale Stark, nor had he been to the Maple Street home. He said he never took Shellye to a shoot range or anything of that nature. He told jurors Dale called and threatened to kill them, “so I sent Shellye up here to get a restraining order.”

“He was trying to be subtle but he wasn't being subtle,” Moore said. “…It's a very subtle form of manipulation.”

Moore said he suggested Shellye use the Sheriff's Office to serve the restraining order, but Shellye said she didn't know when Dale was going to be home. Moore said she didn't take her advice because she thought her sister would suffice as protection.

Compton asked Moore if he communicated with Stark via a “throwaway phone” after the murder because a private investigator told him police were monitoring his phone calls. He said he didn't use it prior to the shooting. He said he didn't provide her with a gun and only learned of the shooting afterward from her nephew.

Testimony begins in Brian Moore case

Prosecutors say the case against Brian Moore will include evidence of not just premeditated murder, greed and financial gain.

“You're gong to hear about twisted love and manipulation.”,” Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell told jurors during his opening statement this morning.

Haskell told the jury of 10 women and 4 men -  two are alternates - that they'll hear how Moore planned the December 2007 murder of Dale Robert Stark with Stark's estranged wife, Shellye L. Stark in order to access his assets, which included a $400,000 life insurance policy.

“You're going to see evidence and hear evidence that Brian Moore conspired with others to eliminate Dale Stark,” Haskell said.

Haskell described the restraining order Stark obtained and the gun she arranged to get from her sister.

“You're going to hear evidence that this gun was in her hands at the request and demand of Brian Moore,” Haskell said.

Haskell said Moore planned a way for the restraining order to be served that was “designed to anger Dale Stark and put Shellye in a manufactured self defense position, and this type of defense was researched by Brian Moore.”

Dale had a firearm in the kitchen, but it was removed at the request of Moore, Haskell said.

Haskell described Moore researching Dale's bank accounts and assets.

Haskell said Moore set up a “sham trust fund” for Christopher Stark and used the money to by things like a new Pontiac Solstice, which was seized in California when police arrested Moore.

But defense lawyer Jeff Compton said prosecutors are letting their imaginations run wild.

“People are blessed with imaginations, and that's a good thing. But when your imagination runs away from you, if it's not constrained by the facts, it can be kind of a destructive thing,” Compton told jurors. “Authorities have not looked at the facts and compared them to their imaginations. They put a worst possible spin on everything that Brian Moore has said and done.”

Compton said Moore loves Shellye Stark.

“Everything he did for her was to help her because of the situation she was in with her marriage…what took place on Dec. 8, 2007, was not preplanned but was something that came about because of Shellye Stark's fear of her estranged husband.”

Compton told jurors Moore first communicated with Shellye in an online chat room involving prostitution and escorts.

He met her in person in 2007 through another woman he knew in California.

“Brian was immediately impressed with Shellye Stark,” Compton said. “She was intelligent. She was funny. She was personable.”

Moore was helping Shellye draft a more equitable divorce plan. He was shocked when he learned of the murder and devoted himself to helping Shellye, Compton said. That involved looking at any available financial assets that might help pay for her legal defense, Compton said.

Compton told jurors to pay close attention to the testimony of Mel Champagne, an attorney involved in the probate of Dale Stark's will. Champagne told The Spokesman-Review in 2008 that case “has just mushroomed..It's really fun from a practitioner's point of view, because it's very unusual.”

Compton said Champagne's testimony at trial will refute “the existence of the motive.”

“You have simple actions by Brian Moore that have been twisted to try to fit a conspiracy theory,” Compton said. “There was never any plot on behalf of Brian Moore and Shellye Stark to kill Dale Stark, and Brian Moore certainly didn't assist her in that.”

Testifying today were Spokane police officers Mario Juarez and Gene Baldwin, as well as Sgt. Brent Austin, who responded to 1620 S. Maple St. the night Dale Stark was shot to death. The Starks' son, Christopher, also testified.

Christopher Stark said he wanted to stay with his father until his father developed a romantic relationship with a cleaning woman and told Chris she would be moving in.

“There was nothing really I wanted to say to him other than I didn't agree with it,” Chris said.

Chris said his father had been trying to get Shellye back. He said his father never hit him and said he never saw him strike Shellye.

“I don't remember ever seeing it,” Chris said.

But Chris did say he feared his father.

“He was a rather angry man,” Chris said. “When my father got angry, it seemed like the whole world was crashing down.” Chris said Dale would yell, flail his arms and throw things. He said he and Shellye would spent hours cleaning up the home after Dale left in a fit of rage.

Chris also described the night of the shooting and the events leading up to it, including his father's reaction to the restraining order. His testimony mirrors testimony given during his mother's trial in 2009. But it includes new information on the trust fund that was established for him after his father's death. Prosecutors are trying to show jurors that Chris got very little of that money, and that Moore used most of it for himself.

Chris told jurors that he went in on a business plan with Moore involving medical marijuana.

Read coverage of that here.

Aug. 6, 2010: Theft charged ddropped against Stark's father

March 22, 2009: Stark jury foreman speaks out

March 4, 2009: Stark jailed for violating release conditions

Murder trial begins for Stark’s boyfriend

Shellye L. Stark is led into court on April 9, 2009. (SpokesmanReview archives)

A murder trial nearly five years in the making begins today in Spokane County Superior Court as jurors begin to hear the case of a California man accused of conspiring with his prostitute-turned-girlfriend to kill her husband in Spokane.

  Brian Leigh Moore, 45, (left) is accused of conspiring to murder Dale Robert Stark to access the man's assets, including a life insurance policy.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt. Moore is represented by Jeff Compton. Mark Cipolla and Larry Haskell are prosecuting.

Stark (pictured right) was shot to death on Dec. 9, 2007, by his estranged wife, Shellye Stark, in what Shellye told jurors was self defense for years of abuse, including forced prostitution.

Jurors convicted her of first-degree murder in March 2009 and she was sentenced to 51 years in prison, but her convictions were overturned because of problems with jury instructions. She's in the Spokane County Jail awaiting trial.

Prosecutors don't beleive Moore was even in the state when Dale Stark was killed, but they beleive he persuaded Shellye to commit the crime and are persuing not only a conspiracy charge against Moore but a first-degree murder charge as well.

Moore was working as a paralegal in Southern California when he met Stark, who advertised online as a traveling prostitute named Nikita Jennifer.

Moore has said his legal work focused on helping women escape prostitution and abusive relationships, but Spokane investigators believe he used that profession to manipulate women with low self-esteem and relationship problems for financial gain.

Stark shot her husband to death after her sister drove a gun down from Priest River, Idaho. Her sister crashed into a bull moose, so Stark's nephew retrieved the gun from the wreckage and gave it to Stark in the parking lot of the hospital where her sister was taken. It wasn't the last we heard from the bull moose - police say Moore, in an attempt to explain his frequent trips to Spokane after the murder, lied to his wife and told her he was working on a legal case for a driver in the area who had hit a bull moose.

A key prosecution witness is Moore and Stark’s former private investigator Ted Pulver, (pictured( who went to police with concerns about Moore. He described Moore as bragging about the plot and discussing Dale Stark’s life insurance policy in detail.

Dale Stark’s life insurance money went to his son with Shellye Stark, who then funneled money to Moore and his mother to pay her legal defense, according to the affidavit.

A 2007 yellow Pontiac Solstice convertible police say Moore and Stark bought with the money remains in police custody.

Also expected to testify is Moore's sister-in-law, who reportedly heard him discuss a big payout from the life insurance policy.

Another witness is Wendy Fox, a former secretary who Moore claims witnessed Dale Stark threaten him and Shellye Stark.

Also subpoenaed to testify was an attorney who worked with Moore, Michael Kendall. Kendall reportedly told police Moore admitted forging Kendall's signature on a Spokane Superior Court document regarding Dale Stark’s will and $400,000 life insurance policy. “Moore told Kendall that he did not reveal all of the details of his knowledge of Dale Stark’s murder because he didn’t want “Shellye Stark to look bad,'” according to court documents.

Spokane police Detective Kip Hollenbeck traveled to Orange County, Calif., in April 2009 to arrest Moore. He was found at a rental warehouse with unregistered guns and homemade silencers. The weapons netted him a 21-month federal prison sentence.

In a letter to the judge who sentenced him, Moore said the effects of his arrest and imprisonment have been “to say the least, dramatic.”

“I have lost everything, from my good name, to the respect of my son,” Moore wrote. “I can not begin to express my shame.”

It’s the second time prosecutors have pursued murder charges against Moore. They withdrew the original charges in October 2009 after a judge ruled key evidence from Pulver couldn’t be used against Moore. Pulver is allowed to testify against Moore, but he can't discuss his investigation into Shellye.

Spokane police arrest longtime fugitive

A Crime Stoppers fugitive wanted since February has been arrested.

 John Gibson Dean, 30, was arrested at an apartment complex at 12426 E. Broadway Ave., after police developed information that he'd been staying there.

A witnesses told police Dean and Lisa M. Baxter, 25, stole her Ford Bronco and were planning to drive it to Montana.

Police contacted Baxter and she denied knowing where Dean was, but she was with Dean at the apartment when police arrived there Tuesday.

Baxter was arrested for rendering criminal assistance, and Dean was arrested on warrants for robbery and gun charges.

He faces a new bail-jumping charge after he left jail on $200,000 bond and never returned to court. He was to begin trial in March but didn't show up for a pre-trial conference in February which led to the warrant.

Dean is accused with Jeremy L. Standon of robbing three people of money, jewelry and electronics after being allowed inside the home at 1415 N. Post St. May 9. Standon pleaded guilty earlier this month and is to be sentenced June 13.

$300k verdict in sheriff’s negligence case

A jury awarded an Airway Heights man $300,000 in federal court after he sued a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office deputy over a traffic stop that ended with the man being tackled to the pavement.

The jury found that Deputy Dale Moyer was negligent in calling in the wrong license plate number when he stopped a car in which John W. Jenkins was riding. The number Moyer called in came back as a stolen vehicle.

Jurors did not find that Moyer or Deputy Mark Speer used excessive force against Jenkins.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

20-year conman headed to prison

A Spokane man convicted of stealing money from a homeless woman who gave him her savings to rent a home is headed to prison.

But it wasn't the theft that earned Unters “Chuck” Love, 58, a 27-month sentence, it was a bail jumping charge he accrued after he bonded out of jail on his theft charges.

A jury recently convicted Love of six counts of second-degree theft, but he faced only 14 months in prison for those charges. He'll serve that sentence the same time as his sentence for bail jumping.

He'll also be credited for 10 months spent in jail and be eligible for typical sentence reductions through the Department of Corrections.

“He'll do another eight months and then be out and about, no strings attached,” said Deputy Prosecutor George Gagnon. “Thanks, state Legislature.”

Gagnon points to Love's long history of cons and is lack of remorse when describing a man he said “was a pleasure to prosecute.”

“He's being doing this or 20 years it's just the first time since 1991 that we have said no you're not getting a deal, you're going to trial”

Love has at least 107 actions against him in civil courts.

Love denied the charges in an interview at the Spokane County Jail, where he is awaiting transport to prison.

“I never did anything to them except help them try to get into a home,” Love said of the victims.

Love said his victims would have been able to move in to their homes had the police not intervened.

But Gagnon said Love is simply a conman who had no problem stealing money from homeless people and trying to sell or rent properties he doesn't own.

Twelve Spokane County residents apparently agreed. They convicted him April 12 after a short trial in Spokane County Superior Court.

Love said his defense was incompetent, and that the truth will soon be known.

“There is a lot of corruption going on and it's going to come out in the appeal,” Love said. “”The courts and the police department, they basically coerced these people to say what they said.”

Love filed a complaint against Gagnon to the state bar association, but it was dismissed.

In the interview last week, Love declined to discuss a stadium project he proposed in Airway Heights back in 2003.

Love had signed a contract with the Kalispel Tribe to lease 20 acres next to the tribe's Northern Quest casino, but he refused to talk to reporters about his bankruptcy filing or earlier felony convictions for theft and check-bouncing.Read more in the story from 2003 here.

Love also was involved in a scheme in Yakima in 2004 involving a football league.

Chronic drunken driver gets 17 months

A retired Spokane firefighter with a history of impaired driving and a conviction for vehicular homicide has been sentenced to 17 months in prison for drunken driving.

A jury convicted David W. Batty, 56, of drunken driving after a short trial in Spokane County Superior Court earlier this month.

He was booked into the Spokane County Jail on Friday, where he's awaiting transport to prison to begin his sentence. He'll be credited for time already spend in jail, which includes the month he was there after his arrest in January.

Batty had a blood-alcohol level of twice the legal limit for driving when he was stopped for speeding about 11:30 a.m. in January 2011 at milepost 310 on U.S. Highway 2.  Batty told police that he had two drinks early that morning and had taken four prescription medications, according to court documents.

The charge was a felony because Batty has a previous conviction for a fatal, alcohol-related car crash in 1993.

Batty was rehired by the Spokane Fire Department after serving time in prison for vehicular homicide but was on medical leave when he caused a crash in January 2007 that killed three people. He was not charged in that crash but never returned to the Fire Department.

Then in 2009, he was sentenced to nine months in jail after he was stopped in July 2008 and tests showed he was impaired on prescription drugs and alcohol.

Plea replaces life sentence w/ 3 years

A Spokane man whose three-strikes trial was halted because of concerns about racist comments made by jurors has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

 Bobby S. Galloway, 24, was sentenced to three years in prison for third-degree assault after pleading guilty last week before Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno.

Galloway already has two convictions for violent felonies. Had he been convicted of first-degree assault as originally charged, a judge would have no choice but to sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Galloway was arrested last May after stabbing a man outside the Top Hat Tavern, 6412 N. Division St.

He was on trial in February, but Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen declared a mistrial after a juror reported inappropriate, racially toned comments being made in the jury room, court officials say.

Man gets 8-18 years for road rage death

A North Idaho man who fatally ran over a woman during a 2006 road rage incident was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison.

 Jonathan Wade Ellington, 51, had been serving a 25-year sentence when the Idaho Supreme Court overturned his convictions last May because of problems with his first trial.

Under the sentence imposed Monday by Kootenai County Judge John Luster, Ellington will be eligible for parole after eight years and credited for time already spent in custody, according to the Associated Press.

A jury convicted Ellington Jan. 31 of second-degree murder for the death of Vonnette Larsen and two counts of aggravated battery for ramming her daughters’ vehicle.

The fatal encounter began when Ellington punched Larsen’s daughters’ car window and the women, and eventually their parents, gave chase at about 90 mph.

Vonnette Larsen's husband fired a .44 Magnum pistol at Ellington seconds before she was run over.

According to the Coeur d'Alene Press, Luster said “poor decisions” were made “across the board” by all the parties involved in the incident.

“I’ll never be able to make sense of the behaviors of that day,” Luster said.

He said the Larsens “clearly” share in the responsibility Vonnette Larsen’s death, even though they have denied so.

NJ man to pay millions in lottery lawsuit

Top: Americo Lopes exits the courtroom on Wednesday in Elizabeth, N.J.  A jury found that Lopes had cheated five co-workers out of their share of a $38.5 million lottery jackpot. Below: Plantiffs Carlos Fernandes, right, Candido Silva Jr. shake hands. (AP Photos/The Star-Ledger, Frances Micklow, Pool)

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) — Five construction workers in New Jersey, vindicated by a jury, must wait before learning exactly how much they'll share of a $38.5 million Mega Millions jackpot that a co-worker who was part of their lottery pool claimed as his own in 2009.

 A jury in state Superior Court in Elizabeth reached a unanimous verdict on Wednesday that Americo Lopes had cheated the men out of their share of the prize.

The panel rejected the 52-year-old's claims that he had won the jackpot on a personal ticket and not with the ticket that he had bought as part of the lottery pool.

Attorney Rubin Sinins, who represented the five men, said each was awarded $4 million because the jackpot was worth $24 million after Lopes chose the cash option.

However attorney Eric Kahn, who also represented the former colleagues, told The New York Times that details on how much each man would receive and how much each might owe in taxes needed to be worked out.

The men started playing the lottery together in 2007 while they worked for Berto Construction Inc. in Elizabeth.

When Lopes hit the Mega Millions jackpot in November 2009, he told his boss he wouldn't be returning because he needed foot surgery, which he never received. He also filed for unemployment benefits after claiming the $17,433,966 prize after taxes.

His wife, Margarida, testified that her husband finally called one of the men in the group in March 2010 and told him about winning.

“Our clients all feel vindicated” by the verdict, Sinins said. “This has been their position all along; they've been challenged in their position and the jury saw it their way. They are very gratified.”

Lopes left court with his wife shortly after the verdict. Speaking in Portuguese, Lopes said he had been robbed, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported.

His attorney, Michael Mezzacca, was disappointed.

“The fact is Mr. Lopes won the lottery by himself with his own money and numbers that he picked,” Mezzacca told the newspaper.

When the verdict was announced, the five plaintiffs embraced. They told The Star-Ledger they'll continue to play the lottery as a group, but would copy the ticket.

“I have a lot to do,” plaintiff Carlos Fernandez said. “My granddaughter was born yesterday. I have to buy her a present she'll remember.”

Man sought on gun, robbery charges

A man accused of a gunpoint robbery last May is wanted by Crime Stoppers after failing to show up for court.

John Gibson Dean, 30, was to begin trial this week on robbery and gun charges, but he never showed up for a pre-trial haring last week and a $200,000 warrant was issued for his arrest.

Dean is accused with Jeremy L. Standon of robbing three people of money, jewelry and electronics after being allowed inside the home at 1415 N. Post St. May 9.

Spokane police paid a confidential informant $100 for information that helped identify the men as suspects. Standon, who is in jail, is to begin trial March 19.

Dean had a Glock 22, .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol that was stolen in Wilbur, Wash., when he was arrested, which led to a felony gun charge.

Dean's criminal history includes convictions for riot, making false statements, refusing to cooperate, forgery, theft, harassment, obstructing an investigation

Dean, 6-feet tall and 185 pounds, last gave an address in the 5000 block of East Sharp Avenue in Spokane Valley.

Crime Stoppers on Thursday offered a reward for tips that lead to his arrest. Anyone with information his current location is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Witness sought in three-strikes case

Police are looking for a witness in an assault case that could put the defendant in prison for life. 

Morgan S. Snider, 23, (right) is expected to testify in the first-degree assault trial of Bobby S. Galloway, but police said this week that she still has not been located.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen declared a mistrial Monday in Galloway's case after a juror reported inappropriate, racially toned comments being made in the jury room, court officials say.

Galloway (left) faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of felony assault because he already has two previous convictions for violent felonies.

Galloway, 24, is accused of stabbing Mickey Davis during a fight May 5 outside the Top Hat Tavern, 6412 N. Division St.

His new trial is set to begin April 2. Snider is wanted on misdemeanor driving warrants.

Anyone with information on Snider's location is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Testimony continues in Mich. militia trial

This combo of eight photos provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows from top left, David Brian Stone Sr., 44, of Clayton, Mich,; David Brian Stone Jr. of Adrian, Mich,; Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio; Tina Mae Stone and bottom row from left, Michael David Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich,; Kristopher T. Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio; Joshua John Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Mich.; and Thomas William Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind., suspects tied to Hutaree, a Christian militia. (Associated Press)

By ED WHITE,Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) — An FBI informant who was embedded with a southern Michigan militia ended his testimony Thursday after more than a week, answering questions that were intended to portray the group's leader as a man with unusual beliefs but who wasn't a warrior against the government.

Dan Murray said Hutaree leader David Stone was greatly concerned about the arrival of the Antichrist and wanted Christians to be ready to defend themselves.

At one point, Murray said Stone believed the federal government was the Antichrist, but the judge struck the remark because it wasn't directly related to a question asked by defense attorney William Swor.

Stone, his wife, two sons and three other men are charged with conspiring to commit rebellion against the government, first by killing a police officer and then attacking the funeral. They also face weapon charges in the trial, which began Feb. 13 and has weeks to go.

Murray, 57, was paid about $31,000 in cash for months of work for the FBI. He secretly recorded conversations while attending meetings and military-style drills in Lenawee and Washtenaw counties in 2008 and 2009. By the end of 2009, three months before Hutaree members were arrested, he wanted to get out.

“I was getting burned out by the whole thing. … I didn't think there was any more I could get,” Murray testified, adding that he never felt threatened by the Hutaree.

Murray, who works for Ford Motor Co., acknowledged that he once tried to bait Stone during a late-night recorded call by saying, “God, I hate the government.”

Swor asked if Stone replied: “Me, too.”

“I don't believe so,” Murray said.

He said Stone on another occasion talked about Christianity and salvation — not fighting the government — during a meeting with a pastor in southwestern Michigan. They had driven across the state to attend a church service but were late.

Murray said Stone feared that the government was planting chips in people through flu shots. He said Stone in August 2009 urged him to go to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in southeastern Michigan to see if German troops had arrived and raised their flag. Murray declined.

Defense lawyers claim prosecutors have turned senseless conversations between Hutaree members into a plot to overthrow the government. They say the talk was offensive at times, but not illegal. Jurors last week heard Stone saying he would kill police officers and their families, although there was no mention of a specific plan.

Reward targets Spokane burglary suspect

A burglary suspect arrested after police followed a fluid trail left by his fleeing vehicle is wanted by Crime Stoppers after missing a court hearing.

Dmitriy A. Stepanov, 26, was to begin trial last week on a second-degree burglary charge and two counts of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, but he didn't show up for a pre-trial hearing.

The burglary charge stems from an incident at the pro shop at Esmeralda Golf Course last July. He already was charged with two counts of car theft when he as arrested in that case.

Stepanov, 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, has been a Crime Stoppers fugitive on at least one other occasion.

He has previous convictions for second-degree assault, first-degree trafficking in stolen property, second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and second-degree malicious mischief.

He was out of jail on $26,000 bond when he missed court. A $30,000 warrant was issued for Stepanov's arrest Jan. 30.

Crime Stoppers on Wednesday offered a reward for information that leads to his arrest. He last gave an address in the 4400 block of East Frederick Avenue.

Anyone with information his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

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