A Mount Tabor woman pleaded no contest on Thursday to a manslaughter charge for shooting and killing her husband at their home on Dec. 11, 2016.
Peggy Lee Shores, 55, was arraigned in February 2017 in Rutland criminal court on a felony charge of second-degree murder. Since then, she has maintained her innocence and denied killing her husband, David Shores, 54.
On Thursday, even while entering her no contest plea to the amended charge, Shores did not directly admit to wrongdoing.
“I just want to give up my four-year fight to prove my innocence because I want to get home. That’s not going to happen with COVID so all the things you’re saying, ‘Yes,’” Shores said after Judge David Fenster explained the process Shores was entering and the facts to which she was admitting.
For serious felony charges, the Vermont Department of Corrections is always asked to perform a pre-sentence investigation. Shores will not be sentenced until the report based on that investigation is submitted to the court.
But under the plea agreement entered Thursday, Shores, who appeared at Thursday’s hearing by video from the South Burlington jail, would be sentenced to serve 4 to 8 years, split so that the amount of time served would be the time she has been in prison as of the date she is sentenced.
Shores has been in prison since the was arraigned in February 2017.
She would spend seven years on probation, which would begin on the day she is released from jail. Also, the state has agreed not to prosecute Shores based on marijuana seized from her home during the investigation of David Shores’ death.
As part of the plea agreement, Shores signed a form that Travis Weaver, a deputy state’s attorney for Rutland County, said listed the facts the state would have intended to prove whether the case had proceeded to trial.
The list of facts started with Shores admitting she and David Shores were home alone at their Mount Tabor house on Dec. 11, 2016.
She agreed he was at the bottom of the basement stairs, and she was at or near the top and holding a .44 Remington Magnum. The list said Shores fired the gun in the direction of her husband as he was coming up the stairs.
Shores had told police that her husband had been walking upstairs and was holding the gun when he tripped and accidentally shot himself.
The form Shores signed at the end of September contradicted that account.
“The safety mechanisms on the firearm were operating correctly. As a result, the firearm could not be discharged without disengaging the safety and applying sufficient force to pull the trigger. Accordingly, Ms. Shore’s hand had to have been on the trigger when it was discharged in the direction of David Shores,” the form said.
Firing the gun showed a “wanton disregard of the likelihood that death or great bodily harm would result,” the form said. David Shores died within minutes of the shot, and therefore Peggy Shores caused his death, according to the form.
During the hearing, Fenster asked Shores if anyone had made any threats or promises to get her to plead no contest, but acknowledged she was entering the agreement to avoid a trial and take advantage of the state’s offer. Shores said no one had.
Fenster pointed out that the Vermont Supreme Court had ruled that unlike a defendant entering a guilty plea, a defendant like Shores, who is pleading no contest, does not have to admit to facts supporting the charge.
The Shores court case has been unusual because members of David Shores’ immediate family have appeared at almost all of the public hearings and frequently called out support and encouragement for Peggy Shores. No one was at Thursday’s hearing, but it was unclear whether family members chose not to attend or were kept from attending because of the restrictions as result of the pandemic, imposed by the judiciary.
Attorney Steve Howard said he believed three family members planned to attend to express support for the plea agreement resolving the case.
The sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.
After the hearing, Howard and Rose Kennedy, Rutland County state’s attorney, declined to comment.