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Woman Who Shot Her Husband As He Slept Gets 25 Years

Tracy Lynn Shumaker, sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in prison for murder, apologized for killing her husband, Daniel, in his sleep three years ago in their Colchester home, but said it seemed to be her only way out of an abusive marriage.

“My action was bad, but I'm not a bad person,” she said. “I just couldn't find a way out at the time.”

State police found Daniel Shumaker dead of a gunshot wound to the head when they went to the couple's home on Westerly Terrace after Tracy Shumaker went to the Troop K barracks to report she had found her husband unresponsive in bed. He was lying on his right side in a position that indicated he was sleeping when he was shot. A black semi-automatic pistol, its barrel facing the victim's head, was on the bed.

The 32-year-old wife had one child with her late husband and others from previous relationships. She said she had wanted to protect them and shield them from what was occurring in the home and that she had tried to hide the abuse from her children or make excuses about incidents they witnessed.

“I was not able to protect my children in their own home, but now I'm unable to tuck them in,” she said. The children all are living with other family members.

When she first spoke to police, Shumaker claimed she had returned to the house with her young daughter, found her husband in bed and fled in fear that an intruder was still in the house. She later changed her story to indicate that she was at home and was trying to wake her husband when a black man broke in and shot him. The man told her to leave the house or he would shoot her, too, she said.

A key piece of evidence in the case was a bloody pair of pants that Shumaker had thrown in the trash during a visit to her sister's house.

After briefly summarizing the crime, prosecutor John P. Gravalec-Pannone said it was a tragedy for everyone involved. Whether Daniel Shumaker was a good husband or not, he said, “The defendant is going to prison for a long time and Daniel Shumaker is dead.” In a civilized society, the place to resolve a bad marriage is divorce court, Pannone said.

Public Defender Bruce Sturman said Shumaker “clearly qualified” as a battered woman and that would have been her defense had the case gone to trial. He said the defense would have “won the battle but lost the war,” however, since Shumaker risked being sentenced to more prison time had a jury convicted her on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Manslaughter with a firearm carries a minimum sentence of 40 years, he said, while the 25 years offered by the state in exchange for a guilty plea to murder was the minimum amount for that offense.

The state had maintained its position that this was a murder based on videotapes of Shumaker's behavior and firearms training she had completed in the past, according to Pannone.

The victim's mother had sent a letter to the court saying her family did not think the sentence was long enough and that their hate for Shumaker “had known no bounds” when they first learned their son had died at Shumaker's hand, and not from a car crash or other accident. Now, the mother wrote, life will go on.

“Dan will still be dead, your children will grow up without a father and (my husband) and I will go about our lives as best as we can,” she wrote.

Judge Susan B. Handy also felt the appropriate charge in the case was murder.

“You took your husband's life and you took your (child)'s father,” Handy told Shumaker. “The only appropriate thing for the court to do today is take your life for 25 years.”

Shumaker, her face puffy with grief, told relatives in the front row of the audience that she loved them, before she returned to prison.
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