• Closing statements in trial of Skylar Nemetz

    By: Kevin McCarty


    SEATTLE - It’s now up to a jury to decide the fate of a former Joint Base Lewis McChord soldier accused of shooting his wife.

    Prosecutors say it was murder, but Skylar Nemetz claims it was a tragic accident.

    “He intentionally killed his wife,” Deputy Pierce County prosecuting attorney Jared Ausserer told jurors on Tuesday.

    Nemetz, now 21, was a specialist in the Army when his wife was shot in the back of the head while she sat at a computer in the couple's Lakewood apartment on October 22, 2014. The 19-year-old died instantly.

    Nemetz claims the AR-15 that killed her fired accidentally and that he didn't know it was loaded.

    After weeks of testimony Nemetz's defense attorney, Michael Steward, admitted his client was likely guilty of manslaughter.

    “I’ll tell you what it’s not,” Stewart told jurors in closing arguments. “It’s not premeditated first-degree murder.”

    But prosecutors say Nemetz has a lifetime of experience with firearms and has been trained by the military in firearms safety. Ausserer held the rifle that killed Danielle Nemetz as he demonstrated to the jury how Nemetz took it from a bed and moved behind the desk where his wife was sitting.

    “Mr. Nemetz picked up this gun to clean it, according to him, and he walked over three feet to orient it at the back of her head. Why in the world would he do that?” Ausserer asked.

    Prosecutors claim Nemetz was motivated by jealousy after being told a former boyfriend of Danielle had purchased liquor for her and spent the night at the couple’s apartment.

    Nemetz's demeanor under questioning by police, along with his changing story about the night of his wife's death, was a focus for prosecutors trying to prove this was premeditated murder.

    At one point in a video-recorded interrogation with Lakewood police, Nemetz blew up at detectives, who asked him over and over to explain how the rifle could have gone off by mistake.

    “I killed my f***ing wife okay! I killed my wife!” Nemetz said on the recording as he raised his arms in anger.

    Stewart countered, saying the outbursts and inconsistencies were grief and panic after an accidental shooting.

    “It’s a panicked, freaked out 20-year-old kid who’s screaming and stomping and going, 'Oh my god! Oh my god! Danni! Danni no! Danni no!'”

    Jurors were sent home Tuesday night after closing arguments that lasted all day.

    Deliberations are scheduled to begin Wednesday morning at the Pierce County Courthouse in Tacoma.

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