The mother of a Carroll County man fatally shot last year testified yesterday that her son never mentioned making his wife, who is accused of arranging the killing, the beneficiary of his $100,000 life insurance policy.
Testifying during the second day of her daughter-in-law's murder trial, Brenda Shipley described how insurance policies and other money matters were handled after her son's death. The testimony appeared designed to support prosecutors' contention that the daughter-in-law, Melissa Lynn Baumgardner Shipley, was eager to cash in life insurance benefits after the slaying.
Brenda Shipley recalled how she was told by her daughter-in-law that she would not be able to collect as the beneficiary of a second life insurance policy because the policy "hadn't been in force for two years."
"I told her I didn't care about collecting the money," Brenda Shipley said. "I would rather have my son."
Melissa Shipley, 32, of the northern Carroll County community of Silver Run, is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy in the death Nov. 15 of her husband, Scott E. Shipley. She also is charged with forgery, accused of trying to make herself the beneficiary of her husband's $100,000 life insurance policy.
She is accused of offering a Taneytown man $5,000 to kill her husband. That man, Butchie Junior Stemple, has admitted shooting Shipley and is expected to testify against Melissa Shipley.
A lawyer for Melissa Shipley told the jury Monday that Scott Shipley was shot because of a dispute over drug money and that the gunman acted alone.
Melissa Shipley and Stemple were arrested 11 days after Scott Shipley's body was found at the Westminster trucking company that employed him. He had been shot five times.
His parents described to a Carroll County Circuit Court jury yesterday their interactions with Melissa Shipley after the slaying.
Brenda Shipley said her daughter-in-law arrived at her workplace about 9:30 the morning of Nov. 15 and told her that "Scott was gone."
"She just said that he was gone, meaning that he was dead, but I didn't know under what circumstances or anything," Brenda Shipley said, her voice breaking.
Her husband, Raymond Shipley, testified that Melissa Shipley, who was pregnant, had designated herself as custodian of a trust fund for her two children from a prior relationship and for her unborn child without informing the rest of the family.
Melissa Shipley lived with her children at her in-law's home for four nights after the killing, until her husband's funeral Nov. 19.
Seven days later, she was arrested.
She gave birth to a boy in March, and court-ordered tests showed that Scott Shipley was the child's father. After a court hearing last month, Raymond and Brenda Shipley were awarded temporary custody of the child.
In other testimony yesterday, a state police sergeant said that tests showed that a gun found in Stemple's toolbox was the weapon used to kill Scott Shipley. Sgt. Mitch W. Dinterman said the toolbox also contained a money clip with the initials SES inscribed, Scott Shipley's initials.
Dinterman read aloud another inscription: "You rock my world. Love, MLB," with the date 12/18/99.
A day after calling to the stand a co-worker of Scott Shipley's who said he had had a relationship with Melissa Shipley, the prosecution presented two more witnesses yesterday who testified to having relationships with her. One of the men said she discussed killing her husband, but under cross-examination said he did not take her remark seriously.
James Heinemann, a Gettysburg, Pa., man who said he was involved with Melissa Shipley for about three months starting in March last year, said he had lent her $5,000 last year, but that she never paid him back. He said Melissa Shipley had asked him to "take care of Scott, meaning gone, killed" because "she knew I was in the military and knew people in the military who could do that sort of thing."
But under questioning from defense attorney David P. Henninger, Heinemann could not recall the context for the conversation or what he said were two similar discussions, and could not say when they took place.
"Someone asks you to kill somebody and you can't remember what was said?" Henninger asked.
Later, Heinemann testified: "I thought she was joking."
Another witness, Robert Bowman, said he met Shipley in October 2001 and that they were involved in a relationship until February last year, when he found out she was married and ended the affair.
Bowman read aloud a letter in which Shipley purportedly described her willingness to reconcile with him and to divorce her husband.
"I can stay here and be miserable for the next 20 years knowing I let the right man go," he read. "Who loves you baby? I do. I keep replaying conversations because I don't want to lose one little detail of our time together."