DAYTON — Looking tired and resigned, Joseph Shuba, 59, appeared in Columbia County Superior Court on Wednesday to plead guilty to murdering his wife in April.
Shuba, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder while armed with a firearm, admitted during the hearing he intentionally killed Suzanne Shuba, to whom he had been married for about 30 years.
Second-degree murder is defined by state law as the intentional killing of a person without premeditation.
Shuba faces a standard-range prison term of 10 years and three months to 18 years and four months when he’s sentenced. He will serve an additional five years for the firearm enhancement.
Shuba appeared hesitant in court, unsure of when to speak or stand. When told about the firearm enhancement, he seemed confused about what it meant for his sentence.
After explaining the enhancement to Shuba, Judge William Acey asked, “Do you understand?”
Shuba paused for a few seconds and then responded, “I think so.”
Prosecuting Attorney Rea Culwell did not make a sentencing recommendation at the hearing. She said that she had not made a final plea offer, and that the state would be free to argue for any sentence up to the maximum at Shuba’s sentencing hearing.
For the guilty plea, Culwell reduced the charges from premeditated, first-degree murder while armed with a firearm, which carries a penalty of 20 to nearly 27 years, plus the five-year enhancement.
Officials said Shuba shot his wife twice in the head while in the couple’s residence at 1001 S. Third St. about 9 p.m. April 29.
They reportedly were involved in an argument, during which Shuba went into the bedroom of the small home, retrieved a .22-caliber handgun, returned to the dining area and killed his wife.
Wednesday’s guilty plea negates the need for a trial, which had been set to begin Jan. 28.
Shuba’s attorney, Dale Slack, recently told the Union-Bulletin his client intended to claim self-defense. Slack could not be reached for comment this morning.
Culwell said she was glad Shuba had decided to plead guilty.
“I’m happy that he took responsibility for what he did, and I’m pleased that it’s going to save the county a lot of time and money,” she said.
She described the agreement as a good compromise.
Acey ruled a pre-sentencing investigation was not needed.
During the upcoming sentencing hearing, the state will have a psychologist who has evaluated Shuba testify. Shuba’s children will also be present.
Shuba requested in his guilty plea that he be given an opportunity to speak at the hearing to express his “grief and remorse for this crime.”