HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pennsylvania — A central Pennsylvania woman has been found not guilty of falsifying federal and state firearms forms for a gun her live-in boyfriend later used when he killed three people, then died in a shootout with state police.
Brenda Shultz, 54, of Hollidaysburg, violated the law because she mistakenly believed her boyfriend couldn't own guns due to a protection-from-abuse order obtained by his estranged wife, Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio argued.
Shultz allegedly acted as an illegal "straw purchaser" by claiming to be the buyer of a gun she knew would be owned by 44-year-old Jeffrey Michael, Consiglio said. The protection-from-abuse order was voided in July 2010, six months before the gun was purchased on Jan. 27, 2011, but Shultz didn't know that, Consiglio said.
But a jury on Tuesday evening acquitted Shultz, who testified she bought the gun for protection though she acknowledged Michael helped her with the purchase.
Michael shot neighbors Kenneth Lynn, 60; Lynn's son-in-law, William Rhodes Jr., 38; and Kimberly Scott, 58; at various locations in Geeseytown before he was fatally shot by troopers. That happened after Michael wounded one trooper in the wrist, then slammed his pickup into a cruiser, injuring another before other troopers fired on Dec. 21, 2012.
State police Trooper Michael Eppolito testified that Shultz told him the day of the shootings that she went with Michael to buy the gun, which he picked out and paid for, explaining she did so because she didn't believe he could own one due to the protection order.
But at trial, Shultz testified she bought the .45-caliber Taurus handgun for protection, though she later bought another gun that she carried with her because it was smaller.
Asked about the discrepancy, Shultz testified at trial, "I think things got a little mixed up." When Consiglio asked if police were "wrong" she responded, "About certain things."
Defense attorney Lucas Kelleher said Shultz had "deep sympathy" for the victims, and Shultz said she prayed for and knew two of them.
"We always have to respect the jury's decision. They put in the time," Consiglio said. "We just don't have to agree with it."