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Slain man prone to violence, Starks’ son says

Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer

The Spokane man shot to death by his wife in what she said was self-defense was prone to “violent outbursts” and hit his son, the teen testified Monday, although he couldn’t remember specific incidents.

Christopher A. Stark, the 18-year-old son of Shellye and Dale Stark, left the estranged couple’s Maple Street home seconds before his mother shot his father in the early hours of Dec. 9, 2007.

“I know it happened, I just can’t remember,” Chris Stark said after saying his father was prone to “yelling, throwing things and scaring me and my mother.”

“It was not one of those things that you want to see as a kid.”

The teen’s testimony was the first time jurors heard about alleged abuse by Dale Stark, who died after his wife shot him five times with a .357-caliber gun. Shellye Stark is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Stark told police she was at the home with her nephew and son to serve a temporary restraining order against Dale Stark, who she said had threatened to kill her and her boyfriend after a tumultuous 20-year marriage marked by physical and sexual abuse.

Chris Stark’s testimony followed that of his cousin Dale Johnson, Shellye Stark’s nephew, who was called to serve the restraining order after his mother, Karen Jacquetta, hit a moose while en route from Priest River, Idaho, to Spokane with the gun used to kill Dale Stark.

Stark told her sister she needed the gun to protect herself from her husband, according to a police report.

Jacquetta’s collision sent her to Deaconess Medical Center in critical condition Dec. 7 and prompted Stark to travel to the accident site on Highway 2, where Washington State Patrol Trooper Robert Bohling testified that she offered to take the gun, as well as Dale Johnson’s shotgun, before agreeing to wait for Johnson.

Johnson arrived soon to retrieve the weapons, and gave the gun to Shellye Stark in the Deaconess parking lot.

Johnson also told the jury that he called Stark’s boyfriend, Brian Moore, as he and Chris Stark drove from the home after hearing gunshots.

“I was told to call him (Moore) after we had left the house to let him know that the papers were served and that Chris was OK,” Johnson said.

While his mother talked of needing to “defend” herself against her husband, the teen told jurors he didn’t know she had a gun and didn’t expect her to have to fight for her life. He also said he was angry with his mother after learning she was working as an online prostitute named Nikita Jennifer.

Detective Kip Hollenbeck disputed parts of Chris Stark’s testimony, telling the jury that the teen told him in interviews that his father never hit him and that he’d never witnessed violence or threats against his mother.

Hollenbeck also said he had trouble believing Stark when she told him she’d killed her husband in self-defense.

“It was a bad act,” Hollenbeck said.

The state argues Stark killed her husband out of greed, while the defense is expected to argue Stark suffered from battered women’s syndrome.

Court will not be in session today, but the state expects to finish its case as early as Wednesday.

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