Nevada County murder trial of Jason Schuller begins
The first thing the defense attorney for murder suspect Jason Schuller told the jury on Tuesday, Dec. 5, was that his client did it.
“Jason Schuller shot his friend,” said Micah Pierce, deputy public defender. “He shot Will Tackett. The question in this case is going to be why. Why did he shoot his friend?”
Schuller, 36, faces a murder charge in connection with the March 2016 fatal shooting of Tackett, 67. Authorities claim he set Tackett on fire after shooting him, took a shower and then turned on the stove’s gas burners before speeding from the home and leading police on a chase that ended in Sacramento.
Schuller has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. If convicted of murder, jurors would then enter a second stage of the trial and determine whether Schuller was insane at the time of the fatal shooting.
A finding of insanity could put Schuller in a state psychiatric facility for life.
Pierce, during his opening statements, detailed his client’s behavior in the days preceding Tackett’s death. He said Schuller acted strange, both with his family in Omaha and around officers in Winnemucca, Nevada, a day before Tackett’s shooting.
“You’re going to hear that he made religious statements about the anti-Christ,” Pierce said.
Pierce said that his client had no identification, wallet or credit cards when officers apprehended him after the shooting. Schuller took nothing from Tackett’s home and left without shoes on his feet.
Prosecutors, Pierce said, will have no evidence of a motive.
Jesse Wilson, deputy district attorney, told jurors that Schuller shot Tackett 10 times in the head with a 9 mm handgun.
“Blood pouring from his head, Jason Schuller took a gas can, poured gas on William Tackett and set him on fire,” Wilson said.
Schuller then took a shower before turning on the gas burners with Tackett’s adult daughter and her two children upstairs. Daughter Heather Tackett then saw Schuller’s white Chrysler 300 leave the Banner View Drive home, the prosecutor added.
A neighbor heard what he thought were gunshots, leading him to Tackett’s home. He saw the fire inside, found an extinguisher and stopped the blaze, Wilson said.
Hearing her neighbor screaming, Heather Tackett went downstairs and found her father’s body along with shell casings on the floor. She then fled the home, he added.
The following investigation linked Schuller to the shooting, Wilson explained.
Officers found a 9 mm handgun on the floorboard of Schuller’s car. Authorities later determined that bullets taken from Tackett’s body were fired from that gun, Wilson said.
Additionally, a beer bottle and gas can in Tackett’s home had Schuller’s fingerprints on them, he added.
Attorneys have said the trial could continue past Christmas.