Travis County prosecutors will not make plea offers to the three men charged in the slaying of Austin jeweler Ted Shaughnessy last year.
After reviewing evidence against Shaughnessy’s son, Nicolas, and two other men charged in the case, District Attorney Margaret Moore said her office will not negotiate with the lawyers representing the defendants and plan to present the cases at trial.
No trial dates have been set, and it’s unlikely the cases will be tried this year.
“We have no intention of reaching a deal,” Moore said Tuesday. “We do intend to try them for capital murder.”
The decision by Moore’s office to not extend a plea deal is relatively uncommon and is an action reserved for heinous killings or cases in which prosecutors believe the evidence points squarely to a conviction.
Moore also said her office will not seek the death penalty for any of the men. Instead, prosecutors will pursue life sentences without parole, the other option available to prosecutors in capital murder cases.
“We’re pleased to hear the news that the state will not be seeking the death penalty,” Shaughnessy’s lawyer Rick Flores said. “We’re fortunate to have an even-handed district attorney who took the time to review the case before making this decision.”
The Travis County DA’s office rarely seeks the death penalty and last succeeded in the 2012 fatal shooting of Austin police officer Jaime Padron. The man who killed Padron, Brandon Daniel, was convicted of capital murder two years later and is on death row.
The evidence secured by Travis County sheriff’s detectives, according to court records, include cellphone records, GPS coordinates and witness interviews that detail a plan authorities said was hatched by Nicolas Shaughnessy to kill his parents to collect their life insurance policies and free himself of financial trouble.
To carry out the scheme, authorities say, he scoured the College Station area for assistance before getting commitments from two men: Johnny Leon III and Arieon Smith.
Detectives say phone records show Leon and Smith were both in Austin on March 2, 2018, when Ted Shaughnessy was fatally shot by an intruder at his home in southwestern Travis County. The men’s plan, detectives say, was to also kill Shaughnessy’s wife, but she found cover in a closet and called 911.
Detectives say Nicolas Shaughnessy, an only child whom the couple adopted from Russia, wanted his parents dead to collect up to $8 million in life insurance.
Court records show Leon was promised $10,000 to commit the killings, and Smith at least $5,000.
A fourth suspect, Nicolas Shaughnessy’s wife, Jaclyn Edison, is charged with solicitation to commit capital murder, but prosecutors have not presented her case to the grand jury for indictment because she is cooperating in the investigation.
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