In April 2012 a Mason County (Wash.) man dialed 911 to say he fatally shot his wife in a mercy killing. Christopher Thorson dialed 911 and talked to a dispatcher for 8 minutes until officers arrived. He later admitted that he shot his wife after an argument.
A jury took a few hours last week to find a Lake Cushman man guilty of first-degree murder with a firearm after.
Christopher D. Thorson, 65, was found guilty Aug. 21 after a five-day trial of killing his wife, Vanessa Thorson, on April 12, 2012, at their home at 111 North Fairway Drive East at Lake Cushman.
Thorson was charged in April 2012 with domestic violence murder in the first degree with a firearm with aggravating circumstances. The jury returned a verdict at 5:30 p.m. after deliberating for much of the afternoon. "I think it was the proper verdict based on the facts and the law," Mason County Prosecutor Mike Dorcy said in a phone interview Thursday.
Thorson's sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Sept. 10. He faces a sentence of up to 26 years on the first-degree murder conviction, and an additional five years because the murder involved a firearm.
Thorson was an officer with the state Department of Corrections at the Washington Corrections Center at the time of the shooting.
The jury did not affirm two special verdicts that it was instructed to consider. The first asked them whether Thorson knew his wife was particularly vulnerable at the time of the shooting, and whether that vulnerability was a substantial factor in the crime.
The second special verdict asked if the crime exhibited deliberate cruelty.
If the jury agreed to the special verdicts, Mason County Superior Court Judge Toni Sheldon would have had the opportunity to sentence Thorson beyond the standard range, Dorcy said.
The jury was also instructed to consider lesser charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, if they did not find Thorson guilty of first-degree murder.
During his trial, Thorson admitted that he shot his wife of 37 years twice with a shotgun after they had been drinking and arguing.
However, his attorneys, Rick Cordes and James Laukkonen of Olympia, argued that Thorson was in an "alcohol-induced intoxication delirium," and was incapable of forming the intent to kill his wife or of premeditating the crime, both elements necessary for a first-degree murder conviction.
They said Thorson should be convicted of manslaughter.
Thorson's blood-alcohol level was 0.14 several hours after the shooting, when he was booked into the Mason County Jail. Vanessa Thorson's blood alcohol content when she was killed was 0.45.
Dorcy, who led the prosecution, said that based on Thorson's own statements, he picked out the shotgun from a chest full of several guns, assembled the gun, loaded it, shot his wife, disassembled the gun, and went out to his back porch to smoke and have a glass of wine before calling 911.