Sklyar Nemetz cried as he was led out of a Pierce County courtroom in handcuffs Thursday.
A jury had just convicted him of first-degree manslaughter in the 2014 shooting death of his wife, Danielle. Nemetz faces 11 years, six months to 13 years, six months in prison when sentenced March 25.
But it could have been a lot worse for the 21-year-old former Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier.
Jurors rejected arguments from deputy prosecutors Greg Greer and Jared Ausserer that Nemetz was guilty of first-degree murder. A conviction on that charge coupled with the underlying firearm enhancement would have meant a minimum of 25 years in prison for the defendant.
They also could not agree that Nemetz committed second-degree murder when he shot his wife in the back of the head with an AR-15 rifle he’d purchased for her as a birthday present some months before.
Jurors instead agreed on the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter.
Still, Nemetz’s attorney, Michael Stewart, did not declare the verdict a victory.
“A beautiful young woman is dead. Her family is heartbroken. My client and his family are heartbroken,” said Stewart, who had argued the shooting was an accident. “We thank the jury for its hard work.”
Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, speaking on behalf of Greer and Ausserer, said his office respects the jury’s verdict.
“I’m proud of the work deputy prosecutors Ausserer and Greer did on the case,” Lindquist said. “Our job is to present and argue the evidence. It’s the jury’s job to make the final call.”
Danielle Nemetz was 19 when she died inside the couple’s Lakewood apartment on Oct. 16, 2014.
Greer and Ausserer contended Skylar Nemetz shot his wife in a fit of jealousy after learning another man bought alcohol for her while he was deployed on a training mission. The defense countered that the shooting was a tragic accident and that the gun went off as his client was trying to clear it.
Nemetz took the stand in his defense, testifying he didn’t know how the gun discharged but that he never intended to hurt his wife.
Jurors deliberated over parts of seven days before delivering their verdict.
Ralph Flick served as presiding juror.
Flick said outside court that a majority of jurors was not convinced by the evidence that Nemetz intended to kill his wife.
“We just couldn’t get there,” he said.
The vote on the first-degree murder count was 11-1 to acquit, Flick said. It was 8-4 to acquit on the second-degree murder count.
He said deliberations took a long time not because jurors were arguing but because they examined every scrap of evidence, including reviewing seven hours of videotaped evidence, a lengthy part of which was Nemetz’s interrogation by police.
Danielle Nemetz’s great aunt, Vera Shumard, attended much of the trial and was there to see the verdict. She did not agree with jurors.
“I still think they did the best they could. Hopefully, there won’t be any appeals and Skylar will spend 15 good years thinking about what he’s done to this family,” Shumard said. “We have to accept that justice.”