A Mount Tabor woman is facing a trial in the December 2016 shooting death of her husband, after Judge David Fenster rejected a request by the woman to dismiss the murder charge based on information provided by a forensics expert she had hired.
Since February 2017 when she pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, Peggy Lee Shores, 54, of Mount Tabor, has been held in prison and awaited trial in the shooting death of her husband, David Shores, 54, in their home.
Shores’ case has been unusual in at least one respect: A large number of her family members — many of them members of David Shores’ family — attend every hearing. Several of those relatives have offered to let Peggy stay with them while the charges are pending.
The state has not provided a motive for Peggy Shores to have allegedly killed her husband but even as recently as Monday has repeated their theory of the incident. Investigators believe that Peggy and David Shores were alone in their home on the day of David’s death and because prosecutors do not believe that David Shores shot himself, they believe Peggy must be responsible.
Attorney Steven Howard, who represents Peggy Shores, has presented the defense theory that David Shores stumbled and accidentally shot himself.
On Monday, Christopher Robinson, a forensics consultant hired by Ms. Shores, Vermont Chief Medical Examiner Steven Shapiro and Harry Jeppe, the firearms examiner for the Vermont Forensics Laboratory, gave testimony, arguing why Fenster should support their theories.
Robinson said he had found evidence of gun shot residue which proved the gun was closer to David Shores than the state believed. He said he also believed, based on the placement of the bullet found in a board in the basement, that the bullet was fired from a different angle than where Peggy Shores was standing on the basement stairs.
“Doesn’t the evidence that your expert raises raise issues for the jury to consider?” Fenster asked. “But otherwise, isn’t it still a question for the jury?”
“I guess it is, your honor,” Howard responded.
Rutland County Deputy State’s Attorney Travis Weaver acknowledged the state’s case “relies on some assumptions” but said there was some “strong evidence” that David Shores had not committed suicide.
Fenster said that he wasn’t allowed to make a judgment on the facts.
“I am not allowed, as you know, to weigh this evidence. All I can see is, ‘Is there a question in evidence for a jury to decide.’ … The evidence that you’ve raised, you’ve raised questions about the state’s theory. But I think that’s exactly the type of thing that I’m obligated to let a jury decide,” he said
Howard said there was nothing else he could add to his argument on Monday afternoon.
Since last year, and during Monday’s daylong hearing, Howard argued the state hadn’t tested the evidence they collected in the Shores’ case including the clothing David Shores had been wearing and the angle of the bullet found in the Shores’ basement.
After conceding that the case was almost certainly going to be heard by a jury, Howard and Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy discussed some of the parameters for the trial.
A status conference has been scheduled for February. Kennedy said she hoped to work out some issues with Howard that would shorten the trial from what was expected to be two weeks last year to one week.
Fenster pointed out finding even a week of trial days could be a challenge but said court staff would do that if necessary.
Peggy Shores has maintained her innocence since she was initially arrested.