February 26, 2009 in City

Suspect’s boyfriend calls case unjust

Jury selection Monday in Stark murder trial
Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer
 

A murder defendant’s boyfriend has amplified his criticism of the Spokane Police Department’s case over the past month, saying it has harassed him and his family in Orange County and is pursuing an unjust case.

A harshly worded, three-page statement issued by Brian L. Moore last week came just days before prosecutors expanded the case against his girlfriend, Shellye Stark, filing a charge that names her mother and sister as co-conspirators in the slaying of Stark’s estranged husband, Dale Robert Stark, 48.

Detective Kip Hollenbeck declined to comment on whether Moore is under investigation, but Moore has said he continues to face questions about the Dec. 9, 2007, killing.

“They’ve got nothing,” Moore said Wednesday.

Opening arguments were set to begin Monday in Stark’s first-degree murder trial, but Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen dismissed the jury pool and will start new jury selection Monday. The move came after defense attorney Bryan Whitaker told jurors the death penalty wasn’t an option for punishment. Case law prohibits jurors from considering punishment because it could unduly influence a verdict.

Conspiracy charges had not been filed against Dennise Johnson and Karen Jacquetta, Stark’s mother and sister named in the amended charges filed Monday in Spokane County Superior Court.

Lead defense lawyer Russell Bradshaw declined to comment on the Stark’s new conspiracy charge, which alleges she and her sisters plotted the killing Dec. 7, 2007, the day Shellye Stark, 47, obtained a restraining order against Dale Stark.

Stark had traveled from California, where she’d been living off and on as an online prostitute named Nikita Jennifer, whom her lawyers described as “fairly high priced.”

Moore said he met Stark through an online message board devoted to prostitution that summer, and the two began dating shortly after. Along with a detailed account of abuse by her husband, Stark’s restraining order request includes a letter of support from Moore.

“Dale Stark without a doubt is a severe example of the textbook model for predators,” Moore wrote. “In contrast, Shellye Stark was a textbook example of the victims of domestic violence.”

Prosecutors say Stark shot her husband five times in the back. But Moore said that Stark told him that only three bullets entered the back and that she first fired a warning shot, then two shots that hit Dale Stark in the knee and elbow.

Stark’s attorneys say she shot her husband in self-defense after he threatened her.

A national domestic violence expert, Dr. Lenore Walker, is expected to testify that Shellye Stark suffered from battered woman’s syndrome, which elevated her defensive response when her husband threatened her.

Police reports show Jacquetta was en route to Spokane from her Priest River home when her vehicle hit a moose. She was treated for serious injuries at Deaconess Medical Center.

Jacquetta’s son, Dale Johnson, retrieved a .357-caliber revolver from the wreckage and gave it to Stark in the hospital parking lot on Dec. 8, according to the reports.

The Starks had signed a divorce settlement in September 2007, but e-mails between them show a brewing dispute over child support payments. Moore and Shellye Stark said they feared for their lives and needed the restraining order to keep Dale Stark away.

A pool of 90 jurors will convene Monday, and opening arguments could begin Wednesday.


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