Although he does not generally reject plea agreements, District Court Judge Steven Schultz did just that last week when he refused to accept a plea of guilty to trespassing entered by Shawn Willshire. Instead, Willshire will stand trial for felony stalking.
Judge Schultz made the unusual decision after listening to a lengthy statement from the victim, who said she could not agree to dismissal of the stalking charge, or to the stipulation to two years in prison.
The victim, a young mother of two, read her statement in Spanish. It was repeated in English by a victim's advocate from the sheriff's office.
She began her account in December 2014, when she and Willshire were both working at a fast food restaurant in Delta. Willshire, a new hire, felt she showed more patience than other managers, and soon began giving her drawings, letters and paper flowers. "I told him I had a family and could not accept presents," she said, but Willshire continued to express interest even after he quit working at the restaurant. One day he brought her an engagement ring while she was at work. She showed him she already had one. He left for a few hours and when he returned, he'd clearly been drinking. When she tried to return the ring, she said, he grabbed her hand and tried to force the ring on her finger. When she resisted, he threw the ring at her.
She said she became so worried she quit her job and told her co-workers to tell Willshire she'd moved far away.
After she quit work, she said Willshire began showing up outside her house. The police were called and he left the property. Then one morning at 5:30, he knocked on the door of her trailer house and tried to push the door open. Again, the police were called and he was told to leave.
The victim's statement detailed more early morning visits, calls to the police and increasing anxiety for her and her family members. "It turned into a nightmare for me and my children," the victim said. She hesitated to even cross the yard from her trailer to her mother's house next door.
In December 2015, Willshore forced open the back door and entered her house. At that point, he was arrested.
Although Willshire has been in jail since then, the victim said she has never been able to feel at ease. She said the thought of him getting close to her and her family again makes her want to throw up.
"I never thought being nice to people and smiling would turn out this way," she said.
Willshire sent several letters to the victim from jail, despite a protective order, and charges were elevated to felony stalking. One of the letters used the words "when the roll is called up yonder," with his name alongside hers and her children's. She found the letter very threatening.
When Judge Schultz questioned the plea agreement, deputy district attorney Sergio Renteria said he understood the victim had concerns, but believed she was in agreement.
Defense attorney Brent Martin said Willshire apparently misunderstood his relationship with the victim, but he never threatened her physically or verbally. He perceived the relationship significantly differently, Martin said, after being invited to a family function and church activities.
Willshire told the judge he had not read the restraining order and when he realized letters were prohibited, he broke off contact. He said the misunderstanding could have been avoided with a "direct, open line of communication," but the victim's lack of fluency in English and his limited understanding of Spanish prevented that type of communication.
Willshire has been in jail for 495 days and will remain there until he is able to post bond. Bond was set at $5,000 at the June 19 hearing; the trial is set for July 25-28.
Two fatal accidents occurred in Delta County within a two-day span last week.
Casey Gillenwater, 25, of Delta was killed the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 13, in a single-vehicle rollover on Highway 133 outside of Hotchkiss.