A judge Thursday morning sentenced Dwayne Thurman to five years in prison in the shooting death of his wife, Brenda Thurman, which happened while he was cleaning her gun at home.
A jury convicted Thurman of second-degree manslaughter after prosecutors made the case that Thurman was a reserve deputy in Lincoln County who had gun handling and safety training that should have prevented such an accidental shooting.
On Jan. 18, 2016, after the couple returned home from breakfast, Dwayne Thurman said he started to break down the pistol to clean it when it fired, shooting a bullet into Brenda Thurman’s chest, severing her aorta and passing through her heart.
Before hearing his sentence, the 44-year-old had only a few words for the court.
“It’s been a long two years, sir,” he said, crying and visibly shaking. “I re-live it every day. I wish it was me.”
As the handcuffs were shackled, he turned to his family and said he loved them.
Brenda Thurman’s mother, Raquel Rodriguez, and daughter, Gabrielle Corriette, spoke during the sentencing.
Speaking through an interpreter, Rodriguez described her daughter as a “beautiful and intelligent woman full of life that only wanted to live.”
“My precious daughter,” she said. “Who I cared for. The child of my eyes.”
She said she disagreed with jury’s ruling of second-degree manslaughter, and instead thought Dwayne Thurman should have been be taken to court on more severe charges.
“Dwayne told investigators that the gun failed and he thought it was empty,” she said. “That’s against the safety rules in which he was well informed.”
Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich argued for about 20 minutes to Superior Court Judge Timothy Fennessy on why his client deserved a lenient sentence.
Dwayne Thurman, he said, embodied everything positive in society: he was “honorable” and “dedicated to the service of others.” As a reserve deputy in Lincoln County, he was, “someone who chose a life of helping others – being an advocate of others, protecting others.”
“That needs to be recognized, judge,” he said, with Thurman’s family and friends seated behind him.
They were points Fennessy took into consideration. The judge, citing the rules for standard sentencing ranges and finding no evidence to support a departure from precedent, sentenced Thurman to five years in jail, with 18 months community custody once released.
Two years of that sentence was for the charge of second-degree manslaughterand the other 36 months, which could not be shortened, was because she was killed with a deadly weapon.
“I want you to know, Mr. Thurman, only you can determine the next factor,” Fennessy said. “And I wish you the best of luck.”
Rodriguez took issue with claims Dwayne Thurman made when he took the stand in his own defense, that both he and his wife were in extramarital affairs. She said when detectives searched the couple’s phone and and iPad, there was no evidence she was being unfaithful. All they found, she said, were signs that he was.
Rodriguez also told the court and judge how Dwayne Thurman seemed unaffected by his wife’s death weeks and months after she was shot. As she made these claims, she grabbed photographs from a large manilla envelope and held them high for all to see. They showed Dwayne Thurman in a Hawaiian-style dress for a luau he held at the house.
“His emotions in the court room do not match his emotions outside the court room after Brenda’s death,” she said. “I have come to the conclusion that he is guilty in the death of my daughter.”
Finally, she said she forgave him.
“You know you are guilty,” she said, turning to look at her former son-in-law who sat facing forward. “Declare it so you can be free of your conscience.”
Corriette, who filed and settled a civil lawsuit against Dwayne Thurman earlier this year, said no matter what, there was no happy ending for the family who has been “destroyed by this incident.” She said it was difficult knowing someone who raised her would be in jail, and that she didn’t have any preference or issue with the length of sentence he received.
What did bother her were Oreskovich’s claims that her mother was a “willing participant” in her death.
“They may have been both at fault for what happened, but she paid for it with her life,” she said. “And he did more wrong than she did. He pulled the trigger.”
Court records say Thurman told Corriette the “gun went off” as he was attempting to clean it. The story later changed leading up to and during the trial, instead asserting that he wasn’t aware it was loaded when he pulled the trigger in attempt to clean it.
“I’ve thought about it several times,” Dwayne Thurman said to the court before the sentence was handed down. “I should have checked. I should have checked and I’m sorry.”