For the first three months after he was shot through the head, Shane Reilly would wake up in horror not understanding why his body didn’t move below his nose or why he was strapped to breathing machines in the hospital.
“We had to tell him 10 or 12 times a day that he had been shot and was paralyzed,” his mother, Linda Reilly, said Tuesday. “I prayed to God to take him. I couldn’t stand to see him suffer. But now he is getting stronger. He is an unstoppable miracle of strength.”
The 26-year-old man, whom every doctor said would not survive or move again, raised a hand and wiped a tear Tuesday as his father stood next to Reilly’s assailant and described the family’s anguish to a full courtroom.
“There are no words that will ever describe this crime, only tears,” Richard Reilly said.
The plea and sentencing of 27-year-old Robert D. Startin on Tuesday was the first day Shane Reilly spent out of the hospital. It didn’t last long. After experiencing problems breathing, Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno suspended the hearing so family members could take Reilly back to his care facility.
When the hearing resumed, Moreno asked Startin why he shot Reilly on March 5. Startin couldn’t provide an answer. She then sentenced him to every day in prison the law allowed, more than 15 years.
“I just want to apologize to everybody,” Startin said as he cried. “I just wish I could change it. I can’t change anything. I’m really sorry to everyone.”
Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz explained that Reilly and Startin were at a drinking party in Spokane Valley and someone joked that Reilly was a sex offender. Startin, who had a relative who was molested, told others he was going back to his apartment to get whiskey. Instead, he returned with a gun.
Startin persuaded Reilly – who is not a sex offender – to take him for a drive in Reilly’s Chevy pickup. Startin then pulled the gun and shot Reilly at point-blank range.
“It is probably one of the most senseless situations I’ve ever seen,” Moreno told Startin. “There is no justification other than to give you the maximum sentence.”
Richard Reilly told the court about the night the family gathered, learned the grim news from doctors and a hospital chaplain and voted to turn off life-support machines.
“We decided to give him 24 more hours. That night he opened his eyes,” Reilly’s father said.
Later, the family asked Shane Reilly if he wanted to be kept alive. Each time, he blinked “yes.” “You cannot even imagine what kind of care he will need,” his father said.
The .45 caliber bullet went in Reilly’s right ear and exited the back of his neck. It damaged his spinal column, brain stem and brain.
Now that his swelling has come down, Reilly’s brain is finding new pathways. He’s only been able to move his hand for the past two days, Linda Reilly said.
“We don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” she said. “We live day by day, miracle by miracle.”