Crime

A former JBLM soldier who killed his wife will get credit for home monitoring time

A tearful Skylar Nemetz turns to address his family and the family of his wife, Danielle Nemetz, before receiving his sentence March 25, 2016 for killing her.
A tearful Skylar Nemetz turns to address his family and the family of his wife, Danielle Nemetz, before receiving his sentence March 25, 2016 for killing her. phaley@thenewstribune.com

A former Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who killed his wife in Lakewood will get credit for time he served on electronic home monitoring before he was convicted, an appellate court said this week.

Jurors found Skylar Nikolas Bear Nemetz guilty of first-degree manslaughter for shooting 19-year-old Tarrah "Danielle" Nemetz in the back of the head at their apartment on Oct. 16, 2014. He was sentenced in 2016 to 13 1/2 years in prison.

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Tarrah "Danielle" Nemetz Courtesy of James Peltier

At the time of the shooting , violent offenders in Washington could get credit for time on electronic home monitoring. State lawmakers changed that before Nemetz was sentenced. That meant the roughly 16 months he spent on monitoring after he posted bail didn't count toward his prison term.

Division II of the State Court of Appeals said in its opinion Tuesday that Superior Court Judge Jack Nevin should have applied the law on the books at the time of the crime, not the one at the time of sentencing.

"The court order establishing conditions of release confined Nemetz to Joint Base Lewis-McChord," Judge Thomas Bjorgen wrote in the opinion, which was signed by Judge Bradley Maxa. "The order imposed other conditions that necessarily curtailed his liberty. ... The court should have applied the law in effect at the time he committed the crime and granted him sentencing credit for time on EHM."

That means Nemetz will get credit for the time between when he posted bail and was convicted, which according to court records was from Oct. 31, 2014, to March 3, 2016.

"That's definitely the upshot of the decision," Nemetz's attorney for the appeal, Jodi Backlund, said Wednesday.

Appellate Judge Rich Melnick wrote a partially dissenting opinion.

"Skylar Nikolas Bear Nemetz should only receive credit for time served on pretrial EHM when the legislature authorized it," Melnick wrote. "When the legislature’s amended law to preclude credit for EHM took effect (on July 24, 2015), Nemetz was no longer entitled to credit for pretrial EHM."

The three-judge panel unanimously rejected Nemetz's argument that there wasn't enough evidence to justify the sentencing enhancement that accounts for five years of his sentence because he used a firearm in the crime. They also didn't accept his argument that such an enhancement shouldn't apply to an unintentional crime, such as manslaughter.

"It is important to note that the other issue raised in his direct appeal — whether the defendant was armed with a firearm — was upheld by the court," Michelle Hyer, the appellate division chief of the Pierce County Prosecutor's Officer, said in a statement Wednesday. "... We are pleased that the defendant’s firearm enhancement was affirmed."

Backlund said Nemetz has 30 days to decide whether to ask the Washington State Supreme Court to review the decision.

Nemetz initially was charged with first-degree murder.

Prosecutors argued at trial that Nemetz was jealous that another man had bought alcohol for his wife while he was away at military training in Yakima. They said he lost control, walked into the room where his wife was working at a computer and shot her with an AR-15 rifle he'd gotten her for a birthday.

Nemetz argued at trial that the shooting was an accident and that the gun went off as he was trying to clear it.

Jurors convicted him of manslaughter.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell
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