Fairman found guilty of second-degree murder
A long embrace between Jessica Shotts and her mother ended three days of an emotional trial that left Shotts's estranged husband convicted of fatally shooting her father.
An Indiana County jury deliberated for three hours before convicting Shaun Casey Fairman, 33, of Washington Township, of second-degree murder.
The charge carries a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
“Jessica had lost her father, and it's her husband that is the alleged, well, now convicted, killer,” said District Attorney Patrick Dougherty. “The range of emotions with that is just unbelievable.”
Fairman shot and killed Richard Shotts, 55, of Rural Valley, at about 12:30 a.m. on June 3. He took two guns to Jessica Shotts's North Mahoning Township home, intending to commit suicide in front of her, he testified.
Instead, Fairman was met by Richard Shotts, who apparently fired one shot in Fairman's direction from inside the Route 210 home. Shotts and his wife, Candice, were staying at their daughter's home for her protection.
Jessica Shotts had a protection-from-abuse court order against Fairman and he had received notice of a divorce on June 2. The divorce is pending.
Fairman returned fire, striking Richard Shotts in the throat. Fairman then went inside looking for Jessica Shotts. She was armed upstairs and fired at him, striking him twice in the shoulder, and held him at bay until police arrived.
“The constant thing that was indicated was (Richard Shotts) can now rest in peace,” Dougherty said. “The other comment that Mrs. (Candice) Shotts made was that her family is safe. Her daughter and grandchildren are safe and aren't going to have to deal with Shaun.”
Two of the pair's four children were hiding in an attic with Candice Shotts during the murder.
The family left without commenting on the verdict.
Defense attorneys had conceded that Fairman shot and killed Shotts but claimed he was unable to form the specific intent to kill because he was severely depressed and too intoxicated. His blood alcohol content was .248 percent. A motorist in Pennsylvania is considered to be intoxicated at .08 percent.
The jury of six men and six women rejected a verdict of first-degree murder, which requires a specific intent to kill.
In closing arguments on Thursday morning, Public Defender Robert Dougherty said prosecutors gave the jury “part of the truth.”
“Every commonwealth witness that got up there only told some of the truth,” he said. “It hurt their case to tell you the whole truth.”
Dougherty and the district attorney are brothers. Patrick Dougherty did not try the case for the commonwealth.
Assistant District Attorney Pamela Miller argued that Fairman was coherent as he spoke to state police, a doctor and a nurse after the murder, despite being intoxicated. She pointed to a videotaped interview with police shown to the jury.
“He had his faculties about him,” Miller said. “The defendant needed Richard Shotts out of the way to get to Jessica.”
Twenty witnesses testified between Tuesday and Wednesday, including Jessica Shotts, Fairman and two psychiatrists who offered conflicting assessments of the defendant's ability to form a specific intent to kill.
Fairman told a jury that he had sought mental health treatment after separating from his wife but left a hospital after five days even though he didn't feel better.
The jury also found Fairman guilty of burglary and two counts of aggravated assault. He was acquitted of a theft by receiving stolen property charge in relation to one of the guns.
Fairman will be sentenced on May 28.
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or firstname.lastname@example.org