A San Luis Obispo woman who shot her husband at point-blank range, killing him, will no longer face a murder charge following a judge’s ruling Thursday that the fatal shooting was unintentional. [Tribune]
Skylar Marshall, 24, previously pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. She will now face a charge of involuntary manslaughter instead.
On July 16, 2020, Marshall shot her 35-year-old husband, Alexander Hagist, inside their unit at the Peachwood Apartments in the 600 block of Chorro Street. Hagist suffered a single gunshot wound to the head and later succumbed to his injuries.
Marshall and Hagist had been married for about a year prior to the husband’s death.
At the conclusion of a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Judge Jesse Marino stated it was an incredible stretch for prosecutors to have charged Marshall with murder, an offense that involves malice aforethought. Marino said Marshall’s actions were obviously reckless, but evidence presented indicated Marshall had a reasonable expectation that the gun was not loaded.
During the preliminary hearing, four detectives testified Marshall and Hagist were messing around with a newly purchased pistol on a living room couch after Hagist retrieved it from a bedroom.
Marshall told investigators she thought the firearm was unloaded. Marshall put the barrel of the gun to her husband’s forehead, and when he stared back at her without any reaction, she pulled the trigger, the woman said.
Sgt. Caleb Kemp testified he examined the apartment after the shooting and saw Hagist sitting on the living room couch with a gunshot wound to the middle of his forehead and that the shot was fired from close range.
Marshall, who was crying and hyperventilating in disbelief, told Kemp the couple was playing with the gun, and she did not know it was loaded. Marshall appeared genuinely concerned about Hagist’s fate, Kemp said.
While being interviewed at the police station a couple hours after the shooting, Marshall told Sgt. Evan Stradley, in the weeks since Marshall purchased the gun, they would sometimes jokingly point the gun at each other.
Eventually, Marshall admitted the couple had a slight disagreement while Hagsit had the gun out, and she picked up the firearm and pointed it at his forehead, Stradley testified.
Marshall was expecting a reaction from Hagist. When he simply stared back, she pulled the trigger to emphasize her feelings about their disagreement. Marshall said Hagist and she made eye contact before she pulled the trigger.
The firearm was usually kept unloaded. Hagist had taught Marshall how to use the gun, and he would typically bring it out after checking it for ammunition, she reportedly told Stradley. The sergeant said Marshall made statements that showed she knew to treat every gun as if it were loaded.
Individuals who reported the incident to police said they heard a gunshot and a woman screaming.
A roommate told Detective Chris Chitty he had seen the couple handling firearms in the apartment previously, including once when Marshall pointed the unloaded gun at him and pulled the trigger. Marshall pulled the rigger again while the firearm was pointed at Hagist’s head. The roommate scolded the couple over the dangerous behavior, Chitty said.
Upon ruling the murder charge will not stand, Judge Marino ordered the prosecution to file a new complaint for felony involuntary manslaughter prior to a May 25 arraignment.
William Gamble, Marshall’s attorney, said during the preliminary hearing that, if the charge were reduced from murder to involuntary manslaughter, eventually there would be a plea in the case.
Marshall has remained in San Luis Obispo County Jail since her arrest.