The moose that jumped in front of Karen Jachetta’s car as she drove to Spokane with the gun her sister Shellye L. Stark used to murder Dale Robert Stark was viewed by jurors as divine intervention that failed.
It also showed the lengths to which Shellye Stark went to obtain the .357 revolver after traveling to Spokane from California more than a year ago – a point the 12 jurors discussed before voting unanimously Wednesday to convict Stark, 47, of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, the jury’s elected foreman, Tristan Weeks, 23, said Friday.
Stark argued self-defense and said her sister was driving on Highway 2 from her Priest River home two days before the Dec. 9, 2007, killing to help her decide how to handle a temporary restraining order she’d obtained against her husband of 23 years.
Prosecutors called it an ambush-style execution; Stark called it an act of self-defense after Dale Stark threatened to kill her while he was reaching for a knife at his home at 1620 S. Maple St.
Her insistence that family serve the restraining order without police, as well as a letter of support for the order from her boyfriend, Brian Moore, also helped convince jurors Stark was guilty of premeditated murder, Weeks said.
In the letter, which prosecutors didn’t detail extensively in court but was submitted to jurors as evidence, Moore wrote that he worried how Dale Stark would respond when the restraining order was served.
“I am not even confidant that a restraining order will be enough to make Respondent act in a civil manner,” Moore wrote. “I am afraid that this man will simply act out his anger.”
One of more than 20 rules read to jurors included a reminder that if the accused had suffered abuse at the hands of the victim but had purposely put herself in a position to provoke him because she intended to kill him and claim self-defense, it was still murder.
Lawyer Bryan Whitaker, who along with Russell Bradshaw defended Stark, had unsuccessfully asked Spokane Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen to strike that rule from the list.
Stark detailed years of abuse at the hands of her husband, whom she described as a compulsive gambler who beat her often.
Weeks said jurors believed the marriage was abusive – how abusive was questionable – but that the evidence of premeditation, coupled with the rule that mentioned intent, outweighed Stark’s self-defense argument and her claim that she hadn’t intended to be home when her nephew served the restraining order.
Moore’s absence during the two-week trial also stood out, Weeks said.
Prosecutors Mark Cipolla and Larry Haskell told jurors that they wanted Moore to testify, but that he couldn’t be located for a subpoena.
Weeks, a 2003 Ferris High School graduate and bank employee, was the youngest of the jurors by eight years, he said.
The group waited to vote on the verdict on the first-degree murder charge until Wednesday – and it was the only vote needed.
They began deliberations Tuesday before 1 p.m. and talked about each side of the case until about 5 p.m.
“Everyone brought up really valid points or arguments,” Weeks said. “It was just a really good group of people.”
Stark likely faces about 45 years in prison. Her sentencing is scheduled for April 9.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.