LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former Las Vegas firefighter and U.S. Military Academy graduate was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without parole plus more than 30 years for enlisting a homeless ex-convict handyman to bludgeon his estranged wife to death with a claw hammer in September 2012.
Clark County District Court Judge Eric Johnson said he saw "pure evil" in small details of George Miguel Tiaffay's plot to have Noel Scott Stevens stalk and kill Shauna Tiaffay as she returned home from her night shift as a cocktail server at the Palms Casino Hotel.
The judge recalled that Stevens, who pleaded guilty, testified that Tiaffay promised him $5,000 for the killing and told him to use a fiberglass hammer because a wooden hammer might break during the attack.
Stevens ended up using a wooden hammer, and the handle did break. But Stevens told the jury he kept hitting Shauna Tiaffay with the metal hammer head until she finally stopped moving.
George Tiaffay, now 43, was at work at time. He had the couple's 8-year-old daughter with him when he arrived the next morning to find Shauna Tiaffay's bloody body, and called 911.
Testimony showed he supplied Stevens with a key to Shauna Tiaffay's apartment, and jurors saw store video of George Tiaffay and Stevens together buying dark clothes, a hammer, knife and gloves several weeks before the slaying.
Prosecutors said Stevens had no motive to kill, but George Tiaffay was upset that his wife wanted a divorce and incensed that she might get his money.
Tiaffay's life-without-parole sentence for first-degree murder was determined by the jury. Prosecutors didn't seek the death penalty because Tiaffay didn't commit the attack.
The judge tacked on maximum consecutive sentences for conspiracy, burglary and robbery, totaling 32 years and four months, court records show.
Tiaffay's defense attorney, Robert Langford, promised afterward to appeal.
Stevens, 40, a four-time convicted felon, faces at least 21 years in prison at sentencing Jan. 7. He said when he testified that he doesn't expect to ever get out of prison.
George Tiaffay didn't testify. Police testified that Tiaffay telephoned Stevens 87 times in the month before the slaying — almost as many times as he called the wife who had told him their relationship was over.
With police closing in days after the slaying, Tiaffay crashed his Ford F-250 pickup into concrete retaining wall at more than 80 mph. Prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo suggested the crash was a botched attempt by Tiaffay to kill himself and avoid prosecution.
This story corrects ninth reference to sentence in addition to life without parole: 32 months and 4 months, not 30½ years to 78 years and 4 months.