Trial underway for former Lakewood soldier accused of fatally shooting wife

Skylar Nemetz appears in court Thursday in Tacoma.
Skylar Nemetz appears in court Thursday in Tacoma.

Skylar Nemetz pulled the trigger of the gun that killed his wife.

But whether the former soldier meant to shoot 19-year-old Danielle Nemetz will be determined by a jury, who heard opening statements Thursday in his trial for the charge of first-degree murder.

“This case is not a whodunnit,” Pierce County deputy prosecutor Greg Greer told the court.

Instead, he said, prosecutors will work to prove that former Spc. Nemetz intended to kill his wife before he pulled the trigger.

“This is a case about control,” Greer said, standing next to a projected photo of a smiling Danielle on the courtroom screen.

Prosecutors allege Nemetz, who was 20 at the time, lost control the evening of Oct. 16, 2014, walked into the room of the couple’s Lakewood apartment where his wife was working at a computer and shot her in the back of the head with an AR-15 rifle he’d gotten her for a birthday.

Hours before the shooting, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier had returned from several weeks of military training in Yakima.

Greer said Nemetz had texted his wife repeatedly to get alcohol for him. When Nemetz returned home and found out she’d gotten another man to buy the booze, he was furious, prosecutors allege.

Greer told the court Nemetz didn’t let neighbors in to see Danielle after the shooting and didn’t call 911. He flushed the alcohol his wife had gotten him down the toilet before officers arrived, because he was underage, the prosecutor said.

Nemetz gave police several accounts of what happened, Greer told the court, including that his wife shot herself, that the gun went off when he shook it and that it fired when he rested it against his thigh.

Defense attorney Michael Stewart told the jury that Nemetz never said his wife shot herself, and that he had no intention of shooting her himself.

He said he believes investigators failed to collect key evidence in the case, and that evidence will show Nemetz was distraught about his wife’s death.

“This is an accident,” Stewart said. “That’s what this is.”

The couple married in 2013, Stewart said, the same day Nemetz finished basic training.

It was “a young marriage based in love and in trust that ended tragically because of an accident,” the attorney told the court.

When Nemetz got home from the Yakima training he was “dead tired and absolutely happy,” Stewart said.

The soldier kept his guns, including the AR-15, unloaded and with the tension off so they can’t fire, his attorney said. Prosecutors said there were 15 guns in the house, including the AR-15.

Stewart said the gun was out when Nemetz got home from the training, and that when he went to put it away he saw the tension was on, pulled the trigger to release it and the gun fired, killing his wife.

“He didn’t pull it to harm her,” but to release the tension on the gun, Stewart said.

“And the world changes for everyone forever.”

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell