Verdict: Shumey was legally sane when he killed mother

Christopher Shumey covers his ears on Feb. 8 during testimony from his psychiatrist, James Moghtader, in Superior Court.
Christopher Shumey covers his ears on Feb. 8 during testimony from his psychiatrist, James Moghtader, in Superior Court.

A San Luis Obispo man with a history of mental illness was legally sane when he shot and killed his mother, a jury decided Thursday.

Christopher Shumey, 36, now faces a prison term of 68 years to life, according to the District Attorney’s Office. He had previously been convicted of murdering his mother, 65-year-old teacher Karen Shumey. During the second phase of his trial, jurors had to decide if he was sane during the Sept. 17, 2011 murder.

After an hour and a half of deliberation, the jury decided he was sane.

When the verdict was read, Shumey showed no emotion, as was the case throughout the trial. His father, sitting in the audience, dropped and shook his head.

While agreeing with the defense that Shumey was mentally ill, Deputy District Attorney Karen Gray said he exhibited reality-based, goal-directed behavior before, during and after the shooting. Sometime afterward, she said, he tried to blame his mental illness to avoid prison.

Had he been found not guilty by reason of insanity, Shumey would have been sent to a mental hospital until it was deemed he was well enough to return to society.

“He clearly had a motive to exaggerate his symptoms,” Gray said after the verdict.

When contacted after the jury’s decision, defense attorney Pierre Blahnik said he was “speechless.” During his closing argument earlier in the day, he implored the jury to consider Shumey’s entire mental health history, which dated back to his first hospitalization in 1999. The victim, recognizing her son’s worsening condition, even kept a journal of his symptoms.

“Her last act as a mother was to try to save him — to rescue him,” Blahnik told the jury, noting that Shumey’s father and brother had earlier testified to Christopher Shumey’s mental illness.

While Gray said the family was sympathetic, she said Shumey didn’t show sympathy for his mother. Shelly Dunn, a San Luis Obispo police detective who interviewed him in the day of the murder, said he showed little emotion for his mother.

“It was so cut and dry,” she said after the verdict. “It was, ‘I did it, and I’m not going to make an excuse.’”

While Shumey appeared to be hearing voices during his trial, Dunn said he didn’t do that during her interviews. But he did suggest he was angry at his mother for being overly controlling, she said.

“He was embarrassed by it, and he wanted to be independent,” she said. “I think he was just very frustrated with his own life.”

The only thing that bothered him about the murder, Dunn said, was the sound of his mother screaming after he struck her with the first of two shotgun slugs.

The gun Shumey used was stolen from his father, who had asked a police officer what to do with the gun the day before.

“If Mr. Shumey hadn’t had that firearm, I don’t think this would have happened,” Gray said.

Shumey, also convicted of firing at a police officer after the murder, is set to be sentenced March 21.