DAYTON — Joseph Shuba was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for murdering his wife last spring.
Columbia County Superior Court Judge William Acey ordered Shuba to serve 180 months for the slaying and an additional 60 months for a firearm enhancement.
Shuba, 59, pleaded guilty Jan. 16 to second-degree murder while armed with a firearm. He admitted he shot Suzanne Shuba during an argument at their home in Dayton on April 29.
In handing down the sentence, which was above the middle of the standard range of 10 years and three months to 18 years and four months, Acey said he didn’t see any evidence of remorse from Shuba. But he declined to order the maximum because Shuba had spared his children the pain and suffering of a trial and the county expenses by pleading guilty.
Shuba initially had been charged with first-degree murder while armed with a firearm. The difference between the two charges, besides the length of potential sentence, is that second-degree murder does not include the element of premeditiation.
Acey chastised Shuba at the sentencing for acting as his wife’s judge, jury and executioner.
“You did not have to stay. Nobody was holding a sword to your throat to make you stay,” Acey said.
The couple had been making dinner when Shuba said his wife started yelling at him in response to a question.
He spoke at today’s hearing, describing the history of his relationship with his wife, who he described as a “happy, outgoing person” when they first met. Later, he said she went through periods of stress and anger frequently.
“She was a lost person. Today, she was OK. Tomorrow, she didn’t know where she was,” Shuba said.
Shuba’s two children, Janette and Joshua, were called by the defense to answer questions about their parents’ relationship. Both children described a history of turmoil at home which got worse after their parents moved to Dayton from California.
They said their mother often yelled at their father and seemed to be losing her grip on reality. She also had a collection of swords and other weapons.
Shuba said that on the night of the murder, he thought his wife was going to come after him with a weapon, so he went to their bedroom to get his gun.
“I thought she was getting ready to kill me with one of her weapons. I didn’t wait. I raised my pistol and I pulled the trigger. I was in a daze,” said Shuba.
Columbia County Prosecuting Attorney Rea Culwell argued for a sentence of 220 months in addition to the mandatory 60 months for the firearm enhancement.
She said the murder was a clear case of domestic violence.
“He did not want to fix the situation by leaving or working on his marriage, so he shot her,” she said.
Defense attorney Dale Slack painted a different picture, and urged the court to consider Suzanne Shuba’s history of verbally abusing her husband, as well as Shuba’s own mental health problems.
“This is not a simple case,” he said.