March 6, 2009 in City

Detective says murder scene seemed staged

Jurors hear playback of 911 call in Shellye Stark trial
Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer
 

The woman began the 911 call clearly, urging dispatchers to send help to the Maple Street home immediately: “I served my husband with a restraining order. He violated it! He wouldn’t leave the house and I shot him, and I need police to come right now!”

But Shellye Stark then turned hysterical – crying, moaning and shrieking incoherently.

The call came in at 1:41 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2007, just minutes before officers arrived to find Stark in the driveway of the home she once shared with her husband, Dale Robert Stark, who was lying dead inside from five gunshot wounds.

That call was played for the jury Thursday in the first day of testimony in Stark’s first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder trial.

It followed testimony by police who said in court the crime scene appeared staged.

Stark, 47, says she shot her husband after he threatened her while eyeing a kitchen knife, but Spokane police Detective Brian Hamond told jurors it appeared the knife had been planted, along with an onion, because no other cooking appeared to be going on in the kitchen.

The gun used to kill Dale Stark appeared to have been placed next to his body, Hamond said – no scuff marks from the gun being tossed were present.

“It struck me as a staged crime scene,” Hamond said. “This is what almost qualifies as a classic example.”

Jurors were shown pictures of Shellye Stark the night of the killing that revealed no defensive wounds on her hands, which Detective Kip Hollenbeck testified was unusual in a self-defense case.

In another 911 call played Thursday, the Starks’ teenage son, Christopher Stark, said his mother ordered him and his cousin, Dale Johnson, out of the home when Dale Stark arrived.

“We got into the car to drive away and we heard a few gunshots,” Christopher Stark said in the call.

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla expects to call Johnson and Christopher Stark to the witness stand when court resumes Monday.

Dale Stark’s mother, Lois Stark, of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., was the first witness called and identified her son through a photograph that was then shown to the jury.

Shellye Stark will stay in Spokane County Jail during the trial after Judge Tari Eitzen denied a bond request from defense lawyers Russell Bradshaw and Bryan Whitaker.

Stark was jailed on Monday after Cipolla spotted her kissing her boyfriend, Brian Moore, in a yellow sports car the couple recently purchased. Moore is a state witness and Stark had been prohibited from contacting him.

The prosecution expects to finish on Wednesday. The defense testimony could extend through the next week, with Bradshaw and Whitaker expected to portray Dale Stark as a compulsive gambler who physically and emotionally abused Shellye Stark, including forcing her to work as an online prostitute named Nikita Jennifer

Meghann M. Cuniff can be reached at (509) 459-5534 or at meghannc@spokesman.com.

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