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Jury weighing case of murder by accomplice

A jury has begun deliberating the case of a Southern California man accused of helping his lover, a former prostitute, plan the killing of a Spokane man in 2007.

Brian Moore, 46, had to wipe his eyes after listening to the 911 tape of Shellye Stark screaming, moaning and heavily breathing just moments after she fired five bullets into her estranged husband, Dale Stark, on Dec. 9, 2007.

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla said Moore helped plan the murder from California to get at Dale Stark’s $400,000 life insurance policy and other funds.

Moore previously testified that he loves Stark and still has plans to marry her, but Cipolla questioned that claim when Moore took the witness stand.

“Wasn’t it true that on the date of this homicide you were sleeping with another woman?” Moore paused before answering: “Yes.”

“So your love for Shellye Stark wasn’t as great on this day?” Cipolla asked, prompting an objection from defense attorney Jeffrey Compton.

Shellye Stark, 50, was convicted in 2009 of the slaying and sentenced to 51 years in prison after a jury didn’t believe her claims that Dale Stark abused her and forced her into prostitution. However, appellate judges in 2010 ordered a new trial when they found fault with jury instructions and other legal technicalities.

During his testimony, Moore admitted that he lied on the restraining order Shellye Stark obtained against her husband just days before the shooting. Moore helped Stark write the document and indicated that he had a sociology degree when he did not. He signed the document as the truth under penalty of perjury.

“It’s apparent you don’t take that paragraph very seriously did you?” Cipolla said.

After a few more questions, a clearly frustrated Cipolla told Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt: “Your honor, at this point I’m done. It’s fruitless.”

Compton, in his closing arguments, again accused Cipolla and Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell of misconstruing a man’s love and efforts to help his accused lover as a conspiracy to get the dead man’s life insurance policy.

“Like so much of the state’s case, they want you to infer there is evidence … when there is nothing to support that. Where is the evidence that the money went to Brian Moore?” Compton said. “In the end, all that really happened is that the state twisted this into a plot that never existed.”

He pointed to earlier testimony from Dale Stark’s son that his father had a horrible temper and would break things in the house.

“There is plenty of evidence to suggest that (Shellye Stark) needed to act in self-defense,” Compton said. “No matter how you feel about Shellye Stark’s actions, this is not her trial. The evidence shows quite clearly that there is no conspiracy and that (Moore) did not help her.”

Haskell said investigators clearly 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. 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.

Cipolla pointed out to jurors that Shellye Stark and Moore, whom he identified as her pimp, had several long conversations prior to the killing.

“Mr. Moore was not in love with Mrs. Stark. He is a greedy man,” Cipolla said. “He in fact is a puppet master who sent Shellye Stark to do his dirty work.”

After learning of the homicide, Moore had sex with his secretary in their California office. He later told Spokane detectives who traveled to California to question him that “you are probably sitting in my DNA right now,” Haskell said.

Most of Dale Stark’s insurance money went to his son, Christopher Stark. Bank records showed $400,000 was virtually all spent in about six months, including money he paid into a medical marijuana growing operation operated by Moore.

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