MOSCOW, Idaho -- A man convicted a decade ago in the shooting deaths of his ex-wife and her boyfriend will not face the death penalty when he is resentenced.
An Idaho district court judge sentenced Dale Shackelford to death row in 2000 for the murders of Donna Fontaine and Fred Palahniuk out of jealousy. The two bodies were set ablaze and found in a garage in the small town of Kendrick.
The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled in a separate case that juries, not judges, must determine if defendants are eligible for the death penalty. That ruling prompted Idaho 2nd District Judge John Stegner to order a new sentencing for Shackelford, who is now 49.
Last year, the Idaho Supreme Court determined that Stegner was right to order a new hearing.
The court also rejected Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's argument that the death sentence should be reinstated for Shackelford because jurors found him guilty of two murders, effectively saying he committed one of the aggravating factors that would make him eligible for the death penalty.
The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported that in a court notice Monday, Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said he wouldn't seek the death penalty at Shackelford's resentencing because it would require him to request a new trial to reconvict Shackelford of two murder counts.
We simply couldn't justify that, Thompson said.
Shackelford's complicated 2000 trial lasted more than a month, with Latah County prosecutors describing an elaborate scheme in which Shackelford and several of his lovers all plotted to kill Fontaine, his former girlfriend.
The case began in May 1999 when the charred bodies of Fontaine and Palahniuk were found. Fontaine, a former prosecuting attorney from Pilot Knob, Mo., had met Shackelford five years earlier while teaching a class at a Missouri prison where he was serving time on a sodomy conviction. The two began a romance and married the next year after his release.
The couple bought land near Kendrick, where they planned to build a home, but they divorced in 1997.
Prosecutors said it wasn't long before Shackelford began planning to kill Fontaine with the aid of various women he was dating. When his efforts in Missouri failed, prosecutors said the scheme spread to Idaho.
Shackelford later tried to appeal his murder convictions, arguing the district court judge had made several errors during the trial. But the Idaho Supreme Court rejected that argument. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Shackelford's appeal in March.