(BROWNSTON) - A jury found 24-year-old john Aaron Shoultz III, of Crothersville, guilty of murder Friday afternoon in the shooting death of his father his father, John Aaron Shoultz Jr., 48, of Crothersville at his home on South Indiana 39 in the Crothersville area three years ago.
Aubrey Woods of the Tribune reports that the murder occurred after an incident in which the defendant and his girlfriend taped the legs of his mother's pet Chihuahua named Tiny Tot.
The dog had been given to Shoultz's mother, Ronda, as a gift by her husband, John Shoultz Jr. The defendant's attorneys had claimed the younger Shoultz acted in self-defense.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Amy Marie Travis said after the verdict that the state was happy with the jury's decision.
"We feel like they considered all the evidence in the case and did an excellent job of coming to the appropriate decision," Travis said.
Vance set Shoultz's sentencing hearing for 2 p.m. July 16.
During her closing argument, Travis said testimony from several witnesses showed the defendant to be a man who had a pattern of behavior in which he committed a crime to provoke a reaction from someone, which would lead to him controlling that person. Travis also said testimony showed John Aaron Shoultz was jealous of his father and the attention his dad received from his mother, Ronda, and that he meant to find a way to kill his father.
The incident he used to provoke his father occurred when he taped Tiny Tot's legs together with duct tape with the help of his girlfriend, Andrea Howard, on the night of his father's death, Travis said.
After learning that the dog's legs had been taped together, the defendant's father carried the dog to his son's bedroom, where he was shot three times in the chest by his son with a 10mm nickel-plated Smith & Wesson handgun.
Guilty on weapons charge
The younger Shoultz's possession of that gun led to a second guilty verdict, possession of a weapon by a serious violent offender. The younger Shoultz had been convicted of a charge of battery with a deadly weapon after he cut his father's face during a fight several years ago. That fight occurred after the defendant shot his father's dog after it urinated in the house.
Travis said a defendant cannot claim self-defense if they provoked the incident.
Defense attorney Ethan Bartanen said if his client planned to provoke his father so he could kill him, he would have to know every scenario related to the outcome of taping the dog's legs.
"And how each person would react," Bartanen said. He said there could have been many different reactions from each of the people in the home after that incident.
Bartanen said there was no concrete evidence suggesting that taping Tiny Tot's legs led to the events of May 2.
He said John Shoultz Jr. had several options after learning that the dog's legs had been taped.
"He could have left," Bartanen said. "He could have yelled at John Aaron. He could have called police."
Bartanen said he didn't have to go to his son's room, kick in the door and enter the room.
He also countered Travis' contentions that the younger Shoultz and Howard could have just left the house through a trapdoor in their bedroom or another exit from the home after John Shoultz became angry about Tiny Tot.
"The trapdoor was covered with multiple objects," Bartanen said.
Travis said there was no testimony showing John Shoultz Jr. threatened his son after the incident involving the dog's legs being taped.
"If he was really in fear of his father, why didn't he leave earlier?" Travis asked. "There is no evidence he brought a knife into the room."
A straight razor that appeared to be closed was found lying next to the older Shoultz's body, but Travis said no one saw him carry it into the room. And testimony showed there were no fingerprints or blood on the knife, she said.
She said John Shoultz Jr. was aging and recovering from a severe cut on his foot that led to him using a cane to walk. He also was carrying Tiny Tot cradled in his arms when he entered the bedroom where he was shot and killed.
"The bottom line is if someone is going to go after someone and hurt them, do they carry a puppy with them?" Travis asked.
Having it both ways
Bartanen said the state could not have things both ways, portraying the older Shoultz as an aging, infirmed father with an injury to his foot and walking with a cane.
"And also expect you to believe that his son could easily provoke him into a fight," Bartanen said. "He didn't take the cane with him when he went down the hallway."
Bartanen said testimony given by Ronda Shoultz, who testified for the state, and defense witnesses showed the younger Shoultz had reason to fear his father.
One of those reasons involved John Shoultz Jr. once throwing his son against a wall, firing a shot during an incident with his son about a year earlier and also once kicking his son in the chest, leaving him confined to a couch for a couple of weeks, Bartanen said.
Defense witnesses also testified that John Shoultz Jr. said after that incident that he almost got it done, and he also once said he wanted to send his son to be with Jesus, Bartanen said.
Travis said none of those incidents were reported to police, and she also dismissed the father's comments about wanting his son dead, saying parents sometimes say those kinds of things. "They shouldn't, but they do," she said.
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