POWELL — Citing serious health problems and a desire to be with his family, a Powell man who’s serving prison time for killing his wife is asking for a shorter sentence.
David Williamson’s request for a reduction is being strongly opposed by prosecutors.
“The defendant should have thought about his health before he shot his wife point blank in the head,” Deputy Park County Attorney Leda Pojman wrote in a Friday filing in district court.
Williamson, 66, killed his wife, 65-year-old Shirley Williamson, in August 2017. Shirley had been suffering from worsening mental health problems and, according to Williamson, had asked him to shoot her during a tumultuous night at their home south of Powell.
He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter last year and District Court Judge Bill Simpson imposed the maximum sentence.
“I know you loved your wife, I know she was very loved by many people,” Simpson said last year. “And that’s why it would discredit her memory, under these circumstances, I think, to give you anything less than 18 to 20 years.”
In a March letter, however, Williamson asked the judge to consider shortening that sentence.
He’d requested a three- to five-year prison term at his initial sentencing, but didn’t make a specific request in his recent motion.
“I know I did wrong. I am not asking to be let out now,” he wrote, saying he’ll “do whatever time in prison I am capable of doing.”
Williamson said he’s suffering from heart problems that have required two stents, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney failure and other health issues. He said his hope is to live long enough to be released and be with his daughter and her children in Indiana.
“I am truly remorseful for the destruction and pain my actions have caused,” Williamson wrote. “All I hope for is the chance to maybe get out and be a grandfather to my grandsons.”
The Park County Attorney’s Office, however, is standing by the maximum sentence it had recommended a year ago.
“The state is at a loss for words as to why the defendant fathoms he deserves a sentence reduction after having shot his blind wife of 36 years point blank in the head while lying next to her [in] bed — after not seeking her the appropriate help,” Pojman wrote. She added that sentence reductions should be saved for deserving people “who do not kill others and who have not already received a reduced charge.”
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Pojman said one of the Williamsons’ adult children believes he already received a reduced sentence when the initial charge of second-degree murder was lowered to voluntary manslaughter, another said Williamson should serve “at least more time than someone convicted of a drug offense” while a third child supports a shorter sentence.
Pojman said Williamson’s request had unnecessarily stirred up family tension among the victims.
By all accounts, Williamson had dutifully cared for Shirley Williamson for decades as her vision and mental health deteriorated, and he had no prior criminal record.
But that changed in the early morning hours of Aug. 26, 2017. Leading up to the shooting, Shirley Williamson had reportedly become increasingly paranoid, with hallucinations and delusions that led to sleepless nights and days.
Williamson took his wife to the Powell Valley Hospital Emergency Room on the night of Aug. 25, but she refused any treatment and the couple was provided with contact information for a mental health provider. Before they left the hospital, Shirley called 911 to report that people were in their garage on Lane 11. A sheriff’s deputy followed them home and checked the property, but Shirley remained fearful.
Hours later, Williamson said his wife pointed and dry-fired an unloaded gun at him in their bedroom. She also repeatedly told him to kill her, according to the account he gave in court, which reportedly was a request she’d made before. Other than being sleep-deprived, Williamson said he didn’t know why he decided to act that morning.
He called police after the shooting and waited on his porch for deputies to arrive. In pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter, Williamson agreed he’d killed Shirley “voluntarily, upon a sudden heat of passion,” but without any malice.
At sentencing, Williamson testified there “wasn’t anybody else” to help care for his wife, but Judge Simpson said he could have sought help or driven away that night.
“If those things had happened, she’d be with us today,” Simpson told Williamson at the May 2018 sentencing.
Williamson did not request a hearing on his request for a shorter sentence, meaning Simpson will likely make a ruling based on the court filings.
Williamson is being held at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington. Although the inmate said he’s “not doing well” medically, Pojman said his needs can continue to be met by the Department of Corrections.
As things currently stand, Williamson is set to become eligible for parole in late 2029 — shortly before his 77th birthday.