Shemorry's farewell: Hitman-hiring husband gets 9.5 years
With his weeping mother looking on, former Charlottesville realtor Patrick S. Shemorry was sentenced Wednesday to nine and half years in prison for hiring a hitman to kill his estranged wife.
"This is such a terrible crime," said Judge Norman Moon as he deliberated, adding that "but for the grace of God" a woman would be dead and 28-year-old Shemorry would have been facing life in prison or capital punishment.
That "grace" came in the form of the hired hitman, identified in a defense pre-sentence memo as Shemorry's former friend Michael Allen Terry, who, instead of carrying out the killing, went to authorities with recordings of Shemorry discussing his desire to have his estranged wife killed.
"“It’s a f***ing war, and she’s just a casualty," Shemorry said on an audio recording played in court in September as Shemorry entered the guilty plea. "Kill Starla; she’s f***ing poison.”
The former Boy Scout struck a different tone during today's sentencing hearing, saying that what prosecutors described as his "cold" and "emotionless" demeanor on an FBI videotape as he receives the news of his wife's demise was actually a front.
"I did hide my feelings from Michael Terry," Shemorry said in a quiet, shaking voice minutes before he was sentenced. His apparent calm on the video, masked "soul-wrenching dread" and "self-loathing," he said.
"I would have been unable to continue walking this earth with blood on my hands," said Shemorry, who turned to apologize to his mother, Danette Shemorry of Pasco, Washington, seated two rows behind him in the courtroom. "I will spend the rest of my life attempting to atone for all I've done."
Earlier in the hearing, Danette Shemory wept on the stand as she recalled teaching a younger Patrick and her other three children "to know right and wrong." Watching his anguished mother testify, the bearded and bespectacled prisoner wearing the gray and black striped suit of the Central Virginia Regional Jail, where he's been held since his June 23 arrest, covered his mouth with a hand.
Assistant U.S. attorney Nancy Healey asked Judge Moon to issue a 10-year sentence, the maximum suggested in the plea agreement, and she disputed the pre-sentence memo that painted Terry–- who the Hook has been unable to reach–- as the instigator.
"That is at odds with the excerpts played in court," said Healey, noting that Shemorry had not implicated Terry when arrested.
Healey also criticized the memo for naming Terry. (In it, Terry's described as a conman using his cousin's identity and who is currently incarcerated at the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail and facing trial next year in Charlottesville Circuit Court on more than a dozen felony charges relating to the alleged identity theft.)
Defense attorney Andrea Harris defended the memo as a tool for "better understanding" and cited letters not only from Shemorry's family but from the intended victim's family–- even from Knight herself–- "universal in that they all express shock," said Harris, asking Moon to consider a nine-year sentence given Shemorry's record, clean but for two misdemeanor use-of-drug convictions. This crime, Harris said, "is not a reflection of who he really is."
Shemorry will serve his sentence at the medium security federal penitentiary in Sheridan, Oregon, closer to his Washington-state-based family, and will have three years probation following his release.