Crime

Convicted killer says lawsuit against victim’s widow stressful, expensive

Larry Shandola recently read a News Tribune story that made him think the lawsuit he filed against the widow of the man he was convicted of killing might not be over after all.

The story was about a May state Supreme Court ruling in an unrelated case that overturned a law that had protected the woman from Shandola’s lawsuit.

After reading the article, Shandola asked a judge to let him reinstate the suit, which had been dismissed as harassment.

A hearing scheduled for Friday on Shandola’s request was postponed because the judge was unavailable. It has yet to be rescheduled.

Shandola was found guilty in the fatal shooting of Robert Henry outside a Tacoma business Sept. 11, 1995.

Pierce County prosecutors said he killed Henry in the parking lot of North Coast Electric Co., where Henry was an executive, because Henry sued him for punching him in the mouth at a New Year’s Eve party.

Shandola, who maintains his innocence, is serving a 31-year sentence for the killing.

He wants to serve his sentence in Canada, where he was born and would be closer to family, and sued Henry’s widow, Paula, when she objected to his request.

The letter Paula Henry wrote to the state Department of Corrections and those filed by others upset Shandola, who names them in his lawsuit.

Paula Henry and her attorney, John Ladenburg Sr., have called the lawsuit frivolous and said they will ask to have it dismissed.

“He is a prisoner who, in prison, feels victimized,” she said this week. “Unbelievable. ... I think it’s a travesty that victims have to be re-victimized by the prisoners.”

Shandola called The News Tribune several times this week to explain why he is pushing the lawsuit.

He called from Stafford Creek Corrections Center near Aberdeen, occasionally interrupted by time limits on prison phone use, and once because he needed to take part in an inmate head count.

“I started this lawsuit two years ago, and I had a specific purpose in mind,” he said. “The reason I sued these people is I was denied a transfer up to Canada. ...

“I’ll be almost 78 years old if I do my sentence and am then released. For more success in my re-entry into society, it would be better if I was up there and maintaining contact with friends and family.”

Shandola said he believes Paula Henry has the right to say she doesn’t want him to be granted the transfer, but he took issue with particular points in her letter.

Such as: “She has no right to call me a sociopath, unless she’s a psychiatrist, or knows that I’ve been diagnosed as a sociopath,” he said.

Asked by a News Tribune reporter if he believes the seemingly minor points he disputes influenced the decision to deny his transfer, he said: “Now, in this position, I kind of agree with you.

“But what happened at the time was, I get turned down, I’m devastated, what am I going to do? ... The prosecutors sent really scathing letters, right? And I think they probably carried more weight.”

His goal is for Paula Henry’s letter and several others to be retracted before he reapplies for the Canada transfer in October.

“I’d be more than willing to talk to the parties and reach a settlement on this,” he said. “I shouldn’t really tell you that at this stage, but I don’t really want to keep going this way, because it’s stressful for me, as well as expensive.”

He said filing fees might be part of his proposed settlement.

“I wouldn’t mind a few hundred dollars from each of them,” he said. “It costs me a lot of money to file this stuff.”

Henry, who noted this week that nearly 20 years after her husband’s death she’s still in court because of his killer, has spent thousands fighting the lawsuit. Ladenburg estimated he donated $10,000 of legal work to the case last year.

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