The California man who prosecutors said helped plan the 2007 murder of Dale Stark pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder just days before his retrial was set to start.
A jury in May deadlocked 11-1 to convict Brian L. Moore, 46, on charges of first-degree murder by accomplice and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Moore was charged with helping Shellye Stark plan and carry out the Dec. 9, 2007, shooting death of her estranged husband, Dale R. Stark, in his South Hill home.
Prosecutors had announced plans to retry Moore, and that trial was set to begin Monday.
As part of Moore’s plea deal, Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla agreed to request the low end of the sentencing range. Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt followed the recommendation and sentenced Moore to 10 years in prison, with credit for nearly three years already served.
“I should never have let her come to Washington state,” Moore said of Shellye Stark. “I don’t know how I can make anything better for anybody. It haunts me.”
Moore pleaded guilty as part of an Alford plea, which means he doesn’t necessarily agree with the state’s theory of the case but took the plea deal to avoid a potential sentence of more than 25 years.
On the witness stand in May, Moore said he still intended to marry Shellye Stark, who initially was convicted in 2009 of killing her husband and sentenced to 51 years in prison before appellate judges overturned the verdict in 2010 because of flawed jury instructions.
A second jury late last month convicted her again of first-degree murder. But it exonerated her on a charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. She was sentenced Monday to the lesser term of 25 years in prison.
Moore testified in May that he fell in love with Shellye Stark after he met her in 2007 on a website for men to find escorts.
“I was impressed,” Moore said. “She’s not a beauty queen. She’s like us. She’s human. When she smiled, the room would light up.”
Former Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell said in the May trial that investigators showed that Moore came up with a plan, traveled to Spokane to get a layout of Stark’s South Hill home where the shooting would take place and forged documents to get Dale Stark’s money.
On the night of the shooting, Shellye Stark presented Dale Stark with the restraining order Moore helped write, which prosecutors said was done in hopes Dale Stark would get mad and give his wife justification to shoot him.
“I’m so sorry Dale is dead,” Moore said Wednesday. “I did not conspire to commit a crime with Shellye Stark. I’m just truly sorry.”
Sypolt acknowledged “obviously conflicting theories” that attorneys presented at trial.
“One was that Mr. Moore was the mastermind of this plot based on the motivation of greed,” Sypolt said. “The evidence was strongly persuasive on that point. It was not very well thought out and certainly misguided, leading to inexplicable consequences.”
Most of Dale Stark’s life insurance money went to his son, 22-year-old Christopher Stark. Bank records showed $400,000 was virtually all spent in about six months, including money Christopher Stark paid into a medical marijuana growing operation operated by Moore.
Christopher Stark spoke briefly with Moore after the Wednesday hearing.
“I could have fought it, but …” Moore told him. “How’s your mom doing? Send my love.”
After the hearing, Christopher Stark made only one comment: “This is what happens when you take multiple people’s lives and you look at them through a straw – tunnel vision.”
Asked if he thought Brian Moore was responsible for his father’s death, Stark raised a hand and walked away without answering.