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Jury convicts Dwayne Thurman of second-degree manslaughter

UPDATED: Tue., April 3, 2018

Dwayne Thurman, right, along with this attorney Carl Oreskovich, arrives for his arraignment, July 12, 2017, in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Annette Please. Thurman pleaded not guilty to to the charge of 1st degree manslaughter. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Dwayne Thurman, right, along with this attorney Carl Oreskovich, arrives for his arraignment, July 12, 2017, in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Annette Please. Thurman pleaded not guilty to to the charge of 1st degree manslaughter. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Dwayne Thurman yelled out and slapped the back of his attorney Tuesday when he heard “not guilty” twice as the juror read the verdict. But his elation ended about three seconds later when it was made clear the jury had convicted Thurman of second-degree manslaughter for shooting his wife in 2016.

The jury of eight women and four men deliberated about two hours Monday and three hours Tuesday before rendering its decision. The former reserve deputy for Lincoln County Sheriff’s office is now facing about five years in prison at his sentencing, which Superior Court Judge Timothy Fennessy set for 9 a.m. May 3.

After the jury convicted Thurman, 44, the 75-year-old mother of Brenda Thurman hugged Spokane County Sheriff’s detective Mike Drapeau in the hallway outside of the courtroom.

“I would think that my daughter would be thankful to God and that justice was done,” Raquel Rodriguez said through an interpreter.

The mother, who cried as she watched attorneys display autopsy photos of her daughter to the jury, said she felt sorry for Dwayne Thurman, as well.

“For 18 years, with the good and the bad, we were a family,” Rodriguez said. “It’s very hard to believe all this has happened. No one is a winner.”

Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich said he, like most people in the courtroom, thought he heard the jury exonerate his client on both first-degree and second-degree manslaughter.

“It’s devastating for him,” Oreskovich said of Thurman. “He is someone who has had his life torn apart from the day this happened and has lived with the tragedy of it. This was just a tough ending for him.”

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor John Love asked Fennessy to immediately order Thurman into custody. But the judge complied with a request from Oreskovich to allow Thurman until 5 p.m. Wednesday to come up with a $50,000 bond that would allow him to remain free until his sentencing.

“He’s been a social worker his entire life,” Oreskovich said. “He helped those who were struggling, who were unprotected, who were being threatened. This is a momentary lapse of judgment in a lifetime spent helping others.”

Love praised the jury for listening to the difficult case.

“We’re happy that the jury made a good decision,” he said. “Of course we thought it was a first-degree manslaughter, but I’m not surprised at all by the jury’s decision.”

The decision ends the criminal side of the investigation into how Brenda Thurman died. She was shot in the heart Jan. 18, 2016, at a time she was struggling to save her marriage, according to the family.

Thurman testified that he and his wife went to a shooting range the day before Brenda was shot to death. Thurman claimed that the teal-colored Glock .380 pistol he had purchased for her August 2015 birthday was failing to eject casings about “95 percent” of the time.

However, when it was tested more than a year after the shooting by the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory, technician Glenn Davis found the gun to be operating exactly as designed.

That prompted Spokane County prosecutors to charge Dwayne Thurman with first-degree manslaughter.

“The bullet struck (Brenda Thurman) right in the middle of her chest,” Love said last week. “The bullet that caused her death, the gun that fired that bullet, was in the hand of the defendant.”

Brenda Thurman’s family earlier filed and settled a wrongful death civil suit against Dwayne Thurman. However, family attorney Richard Wall continues to have a pending civil suit that seeks to prevent Dwayne Thurman from profiting from his wife’s death.

The case began after the couple returned home from breakfast on Jan. 18, 2016. Dwayne Thurman said he broke down his weapon and started to break down her Glock pistol to clean it when it fired and the bullet severed her aorta and passed through her heart.

“I look up. She’s sitting in the chair in front of me. She pushed back on her chair … and falls to the ground,” Dwayne Thurman testified on Monday. “Baby, I didn’t know. I rolled her over. There is no exit wound. I started screaming, ‘Gabrielle.’ ”

Gabrielle Corriette, who changed her name from Thurman after the shooting, testified that she heard a noise and then a sound like dishes falling. She then heard Dwayne Thurman call out to her but only responded when he called a second time.

She rushed downstairs into the kitchen to find Dwayne Thurman “crouched” over her mother, who was struggling to breathe.

“She was on the floor. I said, ‘What happened? What did you do?’ ” Dwayne Thurman responded: “A gun went off,” she said.

Realizing her mother had been shot, Corriette, who has served seven years in the U.S. Air Force, attempted to help her mother breathe.

“At one point, Dwayne said we needed to call 911. I thought he had done that already and I was a little bit upset,” she said.

Corriette ran to get her cellphone, which had a dead battery. By the time she returned to her mother, Dwayne Thurman had called 911 and Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies were racing to the Spokane Valley home.

Detective Jerad Kiehn, who at the time was a deputy, testified that he followed Brenda Thurman’s car to the hospital and he walked into the room at Valley Hospital where Dwayne Thurman was sobbing. At one point, Thurman vomited into a sink.

“I asked him what happened,” Kiehn said. “He told me, ‘It’s my fault. I’m an idiot. The gun just went off.’”

Corriette asked several deputies to arrest Thurman for killing her mother. She also told investigators that Brenda Thurman had asked Dwayne to enter counseling to save their troubled marriage.

Dwayne Thurman told investigators that they both were having extramarital affairs, but Corriette later told police that she knew her mother was not.

None of those details were allowed to be presented to the jury, because attorneys agreed to keep out any information that could be used to show Dwayne Thurman possibly intended to shoot his wife.

Love said he did not argue against a defense’s request to keep the sordid details of Dwayne Thurman’s private life from the jury.

“I don’t think that would have made a difference,” Love said of the infidelity. “This case wasn’t about motive. It was about a horrible mistake. This doesn’t bring Brenda back, but it does bring an amount of justice.”

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