Dayton man to claim self-defense in shooting death of wife

Joseph Shuba's attorney said his client had a reasonable fear for his life

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DAYTON — A man who gunned down his wife at their Dayton home last spring will claim self-defense when his case goes to a jury trial that is scheduled to begin Jan. 28.

Joseph Shuba, 59, is charged in Columbia County Superior Court with premeditated, first-degree murder while armed with a firearm in the death of his wife, Suzanne.

Prosecuting Attorney Rea Culwell told the Union-Bulletin this week Joseph Shuba wasn’t in imminent danger and there is no evidence Suzanne Shuba was armed when her husband killed her.

“My theory is it was a straight domestic-violence murder,” Culwell said. “He was fed up, didn’t want to argue, didn’t want to leave and selfishly took her life.”

But his attorney, Dale Slack, said in a recent interview Shuba killed his wife out of fear for his life.

“There was some reasonable fear on his part of some violence coming from her,” Slack said. “This had been a longtime thing.”

Officials said Shuba shot Suzanne Shuba twice in the head while in the couple’s home at 1001 S. Third St. about 9 p.m. April 29.

Suzanne — who in the past had shown signs of mental instability — started yelling at Joseph because he wanted to know if she would bake some potatoes, according to Slack.

“It was a minor thing,” Slack said, adding the couple had had a stormy relationship during their 30-year marriage in which Suzanne subjected her husband to abuse, even cutting him on at least one occasion.

Therefore, the way she was acting the night Shuba killed her reminded him of past occasions when she had threatened him, Slack said.

“(Shuba) knew there were some knives and a sword hidden in various places.”

So, he went into the bedroom of the small home, retrieved a .22-caliber handgun, returned to the dining area and shot Suzanne twice, killing her, according to Slack.

“He probably will testify she was threatening his life so he shot her in self-defense,” Slack said.

“It was reasonable under all the circumstances.”

Shuba reportedly told authorities afterward he was suffering from frustration, anxiety and stress. He also had been injured in a December 2011 traffic wreck.

A psychological evaluation recently was ordered for the prosecution in preparation for Shuba’s trial. Culwell said she requested it because a psychiatrist for the defense rendered an opinion that Shuba’s claim of self-defense can be supported based on various events in his life and his relationship with his wife.

Slack said the couple’s two grown children from California are expected to testify.

Their son, Josh Shuba, told the Union-Bulletin last year shortly after his mother was killed that she had a long history of mental health issues, displayed manic-depressive behaviors and would periodically “flip out” on his father.

Josh also said his mother was much larger than his father, was obsessed with television shows and mysticism, and collected swords and weapons.

Joseph Shuba has never been convicted of a crime and local officials said they had received no reports of domestic disputes involving the couple, who had moved from California to Dayton about two years before the homicide.

If convicted as charged, Shuba faces a standard-range prison sentence of 20 to nearly 27 years, plus an additional five years for the firearm enhancement.

He is incarcerated at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla in lieu of $700,000 bail awaiting trial.

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