Jury finds Shriver guilty
Tensions were high in Tyler County Circuit Court Friday as a jury of his peers found Howard Paul Shriver, 35, of Shinnston, guilty of several charges, not the least of which being attempted murder in the second degree.
Deliberations took approximately one hour and 20 minutes.
Shriver was also found guilty of burglary, violation of a protection order, two counts of retaliation against a witness, unlawful restraint, three counts of domestic assault, and destruction of property.
The trial, proceeded over by the Honorable Judge Mark A. Karl, began Jan. 5 and was also held on Jan. 6. The trial continued and wrapped up Friday.
“At the beginning of this trial, I told you it was going to be a trial about retribution and rage and bad intentions,” Tyler County Prosecuting Attorney Luke Furbee stated in his closing argument.
“I told you that those were the motives that moved this defendant to the instances of crimes he committed.”
Furbee stated on Oct. 9, 2012, the night the crimes occurred, there was already a criminal case pending in criminal court against Shriver. “You’ve come to learn that there was a domestic violence protective order in effect against this defendant,” Furbee stated. He noted Shriver wasn’t pleased that his ex-wife had stated she was done with the relationship. “He said she would regret it, so what did he do? On Oct. 9, 2012, he got revenge.” Furbee stated the night started with a burglary, in that the defendant took the heavy maul axe and broke the door to a house that he no longer had a legal right to be in. Furbee added that the victim had been given exclusive occupancy of the house.
“In the middle of the night (Shriver) stormed in, after crashing the door in with the maul, with the intent to commit a crime. Violating that order in itself was a crime. But that wasn’t all he intended to do. He intended to wreak havoc . . . he drove down the driveway with no headlights on,” Luke noted, adding that the jury had seen photos of the phone box Shriver destroyed so that the victim could not call for help.Furbee stated the moment Shriver walked across the threshold of the home, he committed the crime of violating a protective order. Furbee noted that the jury would most likely think about the fact that the victim had continued to speak with Shriver after the protective order. “She was very upfront with you about that,” Furbee noted. “She didn’t try to hide that or lie about it.
“Why did she continue to do that? I’m going to suggest that she did that because she loved him, Furbee explained. “There’s nothing mysterious about that.”
“That certainly did not give him the right to do what he did to her. More importantly, if not most importantly, that did not give him the right to do what he did to those kids. This grown man, doing that to those kids. If you want to be mad about that, be mad about that.”
During the defense’s closing arguments, Attorney Jay Gerber noted he wanted to thank the jurors for their service. “This is often tedious; it’s a real pain, but I thank you,” he noted.
Gerber asked the jurors to consider if the situation was “reasonable.”
“Is it reasonable for someone to run away and leave one child inside with an insane madman who chopped down the front door. One of the things the judge said is you are supposed to look at reasonableness and unreasonableness.”
Gerber noted that the victim had a handgun in her possession. “Does she use it to protect herself or her children? I believe that the parent’s first job is to protect their children, their children first and then themselves.”
Furbee noted he felt it was unfair for the defense to question what Shriver’s estranged wife did that night. “It’s easy to armchair quarterback these things, and say this late day, ‘Well she had a gun. She didn’t use it. She left the boy. Why did she do that?’ It all didn’t take very long. It was chaos. She reacted. She did what she thought she needed to do, and it’s unfair, at this late date, to criticize her for what she might have done or not done. He did this. He put her and them in this position. Thank goodness no one got hurt. That’s all you can really say about it-thank goodness, no one got hurt.
“I don’t think you have to be a medical professional or anything else special that you can’t stop and think what those kids were put through.
“It’s all about, this day and age, blaming victims. That’s what it is all about. We all live in a society where there are blame shifters. Shift the blame. Pass the buck. You don’t have to sign up for that. Today, you got a golden opportunity.
Furbee stated that in regard to the charges of retaliation against the witness, he would suggest that every act performed that night was an intimidation. Furbee said Shriver had made remarks about his step-son such as “What’s his problem with lying with cops?” as well as “Go get your gun now, big man.”
Furbee stated that as for the charge of unlawful restraint, when Shriver’s estranged wife was trying to get away in her vehicle, Shriver beat the car with the maul, reached in, grabbed his estranged wife by the hair, took the keys out of the ignition, and threw them in the grass.
Furbee noted that action took care of the charge of destruction of property. “The car was destroyed,” declared Furbee.
Gerber argued that there was no damage to the car on the driver’s side door frame. “That’s the key to the whole case, folks. The driver’s side door. We went downstairs and looked at the car. There was no damage to the door frame . . . The story comes crashing down.” Gerber also argued about the placement of glass in the vehicle, stating that there was no way Shriver’s estranged wife could’ve leaned out of the way “and let all that glass get in there.
“With respect to where the glass was in this vehicle, I suggest to you, it was everywhere. It would have been everywhere. It would’ve been running down people’s backs,” said Furbee
He further noted that the two counts of domestic assault were in regard to the children. “Can you imagine being in that car? Can you imagine being 10 years old and being in that car? Can you imagine being 14 and begin in that car. It’s terrible,” Furbee noted, adding that the count of domestic battery involved the estranged wife. “He contacted her in a provoking nature, reaching in the car, grabbing her by the hair of her head, and jerked the keys out and threw them away.
“This brings us to attempted murder . . . let’s spend some time on that,” Furbee noted.
“He grabs the maul ax . . . think of this maul being swung through the driver’s side of the window with someone sitting in the seat,” Furbee noted, picking up the tool.
“Think about what went in the car. Think about what kind of force it took to beat that car to pieces. It wasn’t just one time. It was over and over and over again, through the windshield, through the driver’s side window. I want you to think about what he must have been thinking at the time. That’s what you are going to have to do. When you do that, I want you to consider the moment this ordinary log splitter turned into a terror weapon. The moment he swung that in the driver’s side window, ask yourself . . . Do you think he had total control over this thing? I want you to ask yourself another question. Do you think at that point in time, he cared about them?
“Thank goodness she wasn’t hurt, but do you think when he made a decision to swing this through the driver’s side window, do you think he really cared where it went?
“Think about everything you’ve seen and heard what went on up there. He goes in with no lights on. Think about the picture of that phone box . . . What happened when two people were able to get out of the house? He went after them, with this,” Furbee added, referring to the maul ax. “I’ll suggest to you that at this point in time, he went out to finish the job.”
Furbee added that the son was then able to get to the vehicle, and Shriver’s wife was given her cell phone. “He couldn’t have that. He went around the car, and the window was down some. He was pounding on the door and was able to get inside and get the phone. He threw it away, and it wasn’t found until the next day by police.”
Furbee noted that Shriver then realized he couldn’t finish the job and had to get out of the area. “That’s just what he did. Away he went.”
Furbee noted that the jury had heard testimony from a nearby neighbor who testified that he had seen Shriver’s truck leave the residence that night.
He further stated that the description of the truck was broadcast and then later stopped in Shinnston. “This defendant was removed from it at 1:39 a.m.”
Furbee stated the defense would argue that Shriver’s estranged wife and children “somehow staged this whole thing, from the beginning to the end.”
“The greatest asset you have to bear as jurors is your common sense. You know he was there. You know he did this, and all that’s left now, is justice. That’s all that’s left. Is there going to be justice? It’s not something done out of spite, not something done out of anger. It’s something done because it’s the right thing to do, because they didn’t deserve this. So I’m asking you now, only do one thing . . . that’s justice.”
Gerber argued that Shriver’s alibis, from defendants who took the stand that day, had no reason to lie when they stated that Shriver had left their home at approximately 12:20 a.m. the night of the crime. “Just because you are friends doesn’t mean you go to court and lie for them. Who do we spend most of our time with? Friends and family. Does that mean automatically not telling the truth? Of course not.”
Gerber spoke about conflicting evidence from law enforcement concerning when Shriver was pulled over for an alleged DUI. “What do you think is more credible? The DUI information sheets that says he pulled my client over at 12:56 in the morning, or do you think his testimony here, looking back and forth on sheets, is more credible? In a minute, Mr. Furbee is going to get up here and say that they explained that the officer pulled Shriver over at 1:39 in the morning. Did we hear from the 911 operator that talked to the officer? No, we heard from someone who runs a computer program. What we heard at 1:39 in the morning . . . that’s when the information was put in the system. We don’t know what time the officer called it in. We heard that the officer pulled him over at 12:56 in the morning. Let’s think about that. My witnesses said that Shriver left their home at 12:20 or 12:30. They weren’t certain about that time. But remember the witness said that it is 20 to 25 miles from their house to Shinnston.” Gerber argued that Shriver leaving his friends’ home and then getting pulled over in Shinnston for DUI would be reasonable as “that timelines fits.”
“Let’s talk about a burden of proof. It’s not enough what you think he might have done it. It’s not enough you think he could’ve done it. It’s not enough to think he probably did it. Convinced beyond a reasonable doubt is a higher burden. I ask you to apply that burden of proof. It’s not been our duty to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt, to prove that he was in Mannington, Shinnston, Marion County, but the evidence is out there for you to consider, whether or not Paul was in Tyler County. If you have a reasonable doubt whether he was in Tyler County, then you must find him not guilty.”
“In our court system, Mr. Furbee gets to get up here and do a rebuttal and finish up his closing remarks. Let me just hedge, even if you believe that Paul Shriver was there that night, I don’t believe you can find him guilty of attempted murder. If you believe he was there, he had every opportunity to do any sort of harm. Not one cut, not one bruise . . . there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone was hurt. Consider this, if you believe he was there. I think evidence clearly shows he wasn’t. Thank you for your services.”
Furbee argued that the 12:56 a.m. time was the time the very first call went in, the time Harrison County knew “about all that was going on.” Furbee argued that the defense’s alibi witnesses were “pretty sure it was 12:20 a.m., 12:30 a.m. (when Shriver left their home) compared to everything else that happened that day.”
After the jury returned their guilty findings, Judge Karl revoked Shriver’s bond. Sentencing will be at a future date.
Of the verdict, Furbee stated he would say that “justice was done.”
“I appreciate the hard work of the sheriff’s office and the many others, in making it happen,” he added.