A Fresno man who testified he was in “a dream-like state” when he shot and killed his fiancée in December 2015 has been convicted of murder.
Stanley Pipes, 56, faces 40 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on July 6 in Fresno County Superior Court.
A jury deliberated over two days before finding Pipes guilty Friday of second-degree murder in the killing of 62-year-old Kristie Claassen.
During Pipes’ trial, prosecutor Gabriel Brickey and defense attorney Salvatore “Sal” Sciandra agreed that Pipes killed Claassen during the morning of Dec. 28, 2015, inside Pipes’ home on Rogers Lane near Kings Canyon Road and Clovis Avenue.
I felt like I was watching a movie and waiting for the next scene.
Convicted murderer Stanley Pipes
Brickey told the jury that Pipes sneaked up behind Claassen and shot her behind the left ear with a .357 Ruger revolver. Pipes then shot her five more times, Brickey said.
Pipes contemplated suicide, but didn’t do it, Brickey said. Instead, he called relatives and told them that he had killed Claassen. After the relatives alerted police, detectives went to Pipes’ home and found him lying on a couch with the revolver near his right hand. Detectives also found a note in which Pipes says he shot Claassen, Brickey told the jury.
In arguing for the lesser charge of manslaughter, Sciandra said Pipes and Claassen had a stormy, on-and-off relationship for about 2 1/2 years. Pipes has been depressed ever since his wife, Marilyn Pipes, 66, died in April 2013, Sciandra said. Pipes also had a history of head injuries, which contributed to a mental disorder, Sciandra said.
Sciandra told the jury that Pipes was under a lot of stress because he contributed financial help to his mother, who was in a care facility for Alzheimer’s patients, and his brother, who was intellectually disabled.
During his trial, Pipes described his relationship with Claasen and the day of the killing:
Pipes said at first he truly loved Claassen and wanted to help her overcome her addiction to alcohol and painkillers. Because he didn’t like to see Claassen in pain, he often gave her money to buy illegal painkillers when her prescription for oxycodone ran out.
He and Claassen were engaged in October 2015. But over the next few months he became unhappy with her, because he said he feared she was only after his home and money. He found out that Claassen had taken money from her ex-husband and a former boyfriend.
Stanley Pipes, 56, faces 40 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on July 6 in Fresno County Superior Court
On the day of the killing, Pipes found his mother’s identification card on a copier inside his home. Claassen denied getting the identification card, but Pipes told the jury: “I felt a certain level of betrayal. I knew she was lying.”
He said he began to feel a tremendous amount of “anxiety and dread.”
He remembered arguing with Claassen about feeding the cats. He said they had a tug-of-war over the cat food dish and Claassen fell. Claassen threatened to call police and accuse him of domestic violence.
“I realized for the first time that she had a plan to take control of my finances, sell my possessions and making off with my investments,” Pipes testified.
Pipes told the jury that “I began to sense time slowing down. I felt a certain detachment. I felt I was in a dream-like state, as though I was outside myself.”
Pipes testified that he didn’t feel in control of his actions. “I felt like I was watching a movie and waiting for the next scene.”
Pipes said he saw himself get the revolver, cock the hammer, close his eyes and shoot Claassen in the back of her head. But the bullet didn’t kill her, he told the jury. He testified that she had difficulty breathing, similar to what he heard when his father lay dying. He described the sound as “the death rattle.”
Pipes told the jury he could not bear to see Claassen suffer, so he shot her again. But he said, “I heard that death rattle again and thought, ‘Oh, no.’”
Pipes said he shot Claassen again and “felt relief because her breathing had stopped and that awful sound was gone.” Pipes denied shooting Claassen any more.
Pipes told the jury he felt exhausted after killing Claasen; he wrote the note stating that he killed her, then laid on the couch, hoping to kill himself, but couldn’t pull the trigger.