In March 2014, Tina Marie Shaffer and her live-in boyfriend, Lloyd “Buddy” Shontz Jr., were arguing about whether she was going to leave him.
The distraught Shontz grabbed a pistol, jammed it into his chest, put Shaffer’s hand on the trigger and told her to shoot him.
Shaffer did, police said.
This week, two years after a Venango County jury convicted Shaffer of third-degree murder, a state Superior Court panel denied her appeal of her 17 1/2- to 40-year prison sentence.
In an opinion by Judge Jack A. Panella, the state court also rejected Shaffer’s claim that county District Attorney D. Shawn White shouldn’t have prosecuted her because he once represented her as a private attorney in an unrelated case in 2003
Panella cited Shaffer’s claims that she didn’t intend to kill Shontz. She told police she “must have pulled the trigger” as the two were struggling.
On appeal, Shaffer, now 41, of Titusville, claimed the prison sentence county President Judge Oliver J. Lobaugh imposed was “manifestly extreme and clearly unreasonable.” She contended that White had not proven she “knew her conduct would result in death or serious bodily injury.”
She argued, too, that her prior “relationship” with White should have prompted him to hand the case to another prosecutor.
In rejecting that argument, Panella found that White had not violates the state’s rules for attorney conduct. White’s contact with Shaffer in the 2003 case was minimal and he didn’t use any confidential information he gleaned from the representation to prosecute her in the 2014 murder case, the state judge noted.
Panella also referenced a “well-reasoned” opinion by Lobaugh, who concluded there is “abundant support” for the jury’s decision to convict Shaffer of murder. While Lobaugh found no conflict of interest in White’s prosecution of he case, he suggested that it perhaps should have been referred to the state attorney