Pierce County prosecutors contend a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier shot and killed his 19-year-old wife last week because he was angry that another man had bought liquor for her.
On Wednesday, they charged Skylar Nemetz, 20, with first-degree murder in the Oct. 16 death of Tarrah Nemetz.
A not-guilty plea was entered on Nemetz’s behalf during his arraignment in Superior Court. Court Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered him jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.
Nemetz has no previous criminal record.
Several relatives and friends of the soldier attended court Wednesday, but they left without talking to reporters. Likewise, Nemetz’s attorney, Michael Stewart, declined to comment.
Tarrah Nemetz, who went by Danielle, died after being shot once in the back of the head as she sat at a computer in the couple’s Lakewood apartment.
Nemetz has given at least four accounts of what happened, court records show, including telling a neighbor that Tarrah Nemetz shot herself while cleaning the AR-15 rifle that was in the apartment for her protection while her husband was away on military duty.
Detectives challenged Nemetz over the first two versions of events he gave, which characterized the shooting as an accident, and he ultimately provided a third.
“Mr. Nemetz said he picked up the AR-15, turned the selector switch from safe to fire and possibly shouldered the rifle and pulled the trigger,” deputy prosecutor Jared Ausserer wrote in a declaration for probable cause.
“He stated that he did all of this while the rifle was pointed at the back of his wife’s head. He provided no reason why he did this and said that it was a stupid thing to do.”
Instead of calling 911, Nemetz took the magazine from the gun and threw it under a bed and put the AR-15 into a closet, court records show. He also told detectives he flushed the contents of a bottle of cinnamon whiskey down the toilet.
“When asked why he took the time to do all of these things instead of offer aid to his wife or call 911, Mr. Nemetz was unable to provide a reason,” Ausserer wrote in his declaration.
A neighbor who heard the shot called 911, which summoned law enforcement to the scene.
A colleague of Nemetz’s later told detectives he’d visited with the couple about two hours before the shooting. Nemetz had recently returned home from a training exercise and found liquor in the house, court records show.
“Mr. Nemetz thanked his co-worker for getting liquor for him and Mrs. Nemetz while he was gone,” Ausserer’s declaration states. “The co-worker told Mr. Nemetz that another man bought the liquor for her.
“The co-worker told detectives that Mr. Nemetz was furious and visibly upset.”
Nemetz later told detectives he and his wife were happy and had not argued before the shooting, the records show.
Ausserer said in court that Nemetz is known to own multiple firearms. Foley ordered the soldier to turn the guns over to sheriff’s deputies should he make bail.