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Hempfield man headed to trial in November shooting of wife

| Sunday, June 10, 2012, 6:44 p.m.

A Hempfield man's wife yesterday tearfully recalled the events that led to her husband allegedly shooting her at their home just days before Thanksgiving.

After hearing testimony from Judy Shirer, Jeannette District Judge Joseph DeMarchis ordered James Shirer, 63, to stand trial on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment of another person.

"I didn't know if he was going to use the gun on himself or me," Judy Shirer testified. "I turned to get away from him, and that's when I heard the gun go off. I said, 'Jimmy, you shot me.' He said, 'I thought the safety latch was on.'"

Judy Shirer, James Shirer's wife of 30 years, and state police Trooper Robert Harr of the Greensburg barracks were the lone witnesses to testify at the preliminary hearing.

Judy Shirer, 58, testified that she and her husband argued Nov. 21 at their home at 94 Rockwell Drive as they discussed the possibility of a niece from South Carolina moving in with them. She said her husband had been drinking heavily that day.

She testified that her husband retrieved a loaded Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver from a kitchen cabinet, then pointed it at her as he pulled back the hammer on the gun.

"I told him to put the gun down. I didn't know what he was going to do with it," she said. "I kept pleading with him to put it down."

Judy Shirer said the bullet struck her in the back of her right shoulder and lodged near her spine. She said she has been in constant pain and that surgery to remove the bullet is scheduled for today.

Shirer said her husband called 911 and attempted to tend to his wife's injury. According to the police affidavit, James Shirer said his wife had him in a "rage of anger," and he wanted to scare her. He told police the gun had a "hair trigger" and went off accidentally.

"He told me his reason for (getting the gun) was to scare his wife because she angered him," Harr testified.

Defense attorney Matthew Schimizzi argued that the attempted homicide charge should have been dismissed.

"There has to be a specific intent to kill," Schimizzi said. "It was not done with the intent to kill."

Assistant District Attorney Gregg DeFloria argued that there was enough evidence for the charge to stand.

"He pulled the hammer back," DeFloria said. "His intent at that point was to fire at his wife."

James Shirer remains in the Westmoreland County Prison on $250,000 bond. He is scheduled for formal arraignment March 2 in the Westmoreland County Courthouse.

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