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Stark violates release terms, sent back to jail

Shellye Stark sits through pre-trial motions last month.  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Shellye Stark sits through pre-trial motions last month. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Suspect seen with state witness: her fiance

A woman accused of killing her husband whose first-degree murder trial is expected to start this week is back in jail.

Shellye L. Stark, 47, was jailed early Monday evening after she was spotted with her fiance, Brian Moore, who’s listed as a state witness, during a break in jury questioning.

Stark is prohibited from having contact with state witnesses. Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen issued a bench warrant that revoked her $250,000 bond Monday upon the request of the prosecution. She won’t be allowed to post another, court papers show.

She’s already paid the nonrefundable 10 percent of the bond twice – first a month after the Dec. 9, 2007, shooting death of her husband, Dale Robert Stark, then in June after her GPS tracking device showed she’d left the area, also a violation of her release conditions.

Stark is claiming self-defense. A national domestic violence expert is expected to testify for the defense that years of marital abuse prompted an overreaction when her husband threatened her.

Prosecutor Mark Cipolla and defense lawyers Russell Bradshaw and Bryan Whitaker declined comment Tuesday, but court minutes show the defense acknowledged the contact with Moore but pleaded with Eitzen to let Stark stay free.

“We are just days away from this judgment for her,” Bradshaw told the court. “… Her testimony is going to be a heck of an emotional day, and I still need to be able to sit down and just be with her on that.”

He asked Eitzen for an exception allowing Stark to see Moore, but Eitzen ordered Stark to stay off the jail phone and have no unauthorized contact with state witnesses, including Moore.

“Apparently she has had quite a bit of time with this gentleman in violation of a court order,” Eitzen said, according to court minutes.

Moore, of Orange County, Calif., is described as “under investigation in California and Washington for numerous crimes” in the motion from the prosecution asking for the warrant.

In a three-page statement blasting the investigation issued last week, Moore said he’s still facing questions for his role in the shooting. Moore has said he met Stark through an online message board devoted to prostitution while Stark was working as an online prostitute under the name Nikita Jennifer.

According to Monday’s court minutes, Cipolla watched Stark kiss Moore and get in his yellow sports car Monday afternoon, and Moore then told Spokane police Detective Kip Hollenbeck that he’d been staying with Stark at her Spokane apartment.

Shellye Stark told police she was at Dale Stark’s home in December 2007 with her nephew to serve a restraining order when he came home from a business trip about 1:45 a.m. and threatened her. Prosecutors filed a conspiracy to murder charge against Stark last week that says she conspired with her sister, Karen Jacquetta, and mother, Dennise Johnson, to obtain the gun used to kill her husband.

The jury pool under questioning is the second called.

Last week, Eitzen issued a continuance because the defense told prospective jurors the case didn’t involve the death penalty.

Bradshaw and Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell drafted an additional question for the new jurors Tuesday that asks about preconceptions of punishment in an attempt to gauge whether the new potential jurors knew about last week’s decision.

The new jury could be seated today, and opening arguments were expected this week.

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Then and Now: Comstock Park

James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.