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Jury recommends life for Shayna Hubers; penalty phase includes emotional testimony from families

By Mark Hansel
KyForward managing editor

A Campbell County jury recommended a sentence of life in prison for Shayna Hubers at Wednesday’s penalty phase of her trial.

A day earlier, the jury found Hubers guilty of murder in the killing of attorney Ryan Poston.

Katie Carter, Ryan Poston’s sister, clutches the teddy bear she brought to the witness stand with her, as the family answers questions following the jury’s recommendation of life in prison for Shayna Hubers ( photos by Mark Hansel).

Hubers shot Poston six times in his Highland Heights apartment on Oct. 12, 2012.

The penalty phase included emotional testimony from family members, but perhaps none was more compelling than that of Katie Carter, Ryan Poston’s sister.

Carter took the witness stand, a self-described 30-year old woman clutching a teddy bear.

“I don’t need to bring a teddy bear up with me, but this teddy tear was made by Jay’s sister,” Carter said. “This is Ryan’s shirt.”

She pushed a button on the bear’s arm and a voice familiar to members of the Poston and Carter families was heard.

“This is Ryan Poston. I’m sorry, but I’m unavailable right now. If you could leave a message, I will call you back as soon as possible.”

Carter spoke through tears and sobs as she told those in the courtroom that it was the voicemail message from Poston’s cell phone.

“That’s it,” she said. “That’s all we have. A voicemail.”

There is no way of knowing what, if any, impact the testimony of a single witness had on the jury’s decision to recommend the maximum sentence, but the response from those in the courtroom was clear. Many hung their heads and dabbed their eyes, while others wept openly.

Jay Poston, Ryan Poston’s father said his son’s kindness got him killed. Poston struggled to explain the impact the death of his son has had on his life.

A jury Wednesday recommended a sentence of life in prison for Shayna Hubers, following a murder conviction in the killing of Ryan Poston in 2012.

“It’s hard to get out of bed,” Poston said. “This woman (Hubers) has stolen my entire life. She has stolen my will to live.”

The penalty phase also included emotional testimony from Hubers’ mother, Sharon Hubers, who talked about how her daughter helped her take care of family members who were ill over the years.

“Shayna loved to help people her whole life,” she said. “She has a lot to give the world.”

Sharon Hubers told jurors her husband is mentally ill and Shayna is her only child.

“I’m all alone,” she said. “The only person I can talk to and communicate with that still has her mind is Shayna.”

David Eldridge, lead counsel for the Hubers defense team, said his client was just 21 years of age and mentally ill when she killed Poston.

Campbell Commonwealth Attorney Michelle Snodgrass (center) and members of the Poston and Carter families, speak to the media following Wednesday’s recommendation of life in prison for Shayna ubers in the 2012 killing of Ryan Poston. Hubers was convicted of murder Tuesday.

He said that while the jury did not consider extreme emotional disturbance as a reason for acquittal or a reduced charge, it could still be a factor in a recommendation for a lesser sentence.

He asked the jury for mercy for his client.

In her closing statement, Campbell Commonwealth Attorney Michelle Snodgrass said the time for mercy had passed.

“Mercy didn’t happen when she decided to play God as she lifted that gun again, and again and again and again, so why are we showing mercy now?” Snodgrass said. “She took a life, the only appropriate decision is life.”

This is the second time Hubers was convicted of murder for the same crime.

Hubers was first found guilty in 2015 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. She was granted a new trial in 2016 when it was learned that a juror in that proceeding had a felony conviction.

There was never any question about who killed Poston. Huber admitting to shooting her on-again, off-again boyfriend six times and called 911.

Her attorneys claimed Poston abused Huber and she acted in self-defense, but the jurors, who could have convicted on a lesser charge were convinced it was murder.

The jury could have recommended a sentence of anywhere from 20 to 50 years, or life in prison. After hours of deliberation Wednesday, they recommended the maximum sentence.

In Kentucky, someone convicted of murder must serve 85 percent of his or her sentence before being eligible for parole.

Members of the Poston and Carter families become emotional as Campbell Commonwealth Attorney Michelle Snodgrass talks about the jury recommendation of life in prison for Shayna Hubers.

A recommendation of 20 years, for example, would have made Hubers eligible for parole after 17 years. Hubers has already been in jail for 2,147 days, or about five years and ten months and that time counts toward her parole eligibility.

A sentence of 24 years or more in Kentucky, allows someone convicted of murder to be considered for parole after 20 years.

So while the now 27-year-old Hubers potentially could receive a much stiffer sentence than her first trial, if Campbell Circuit Judge Daniel Zalla follows the jury recommendation, her parole eligibility date will not change.

After the jury was dismissed, Snodgrass and members of the Poston family spoke with reporters.

When asked what he would miss about his son, Jay Poston said, “the possibilities.”

“We will never know the incredible possibilities that Ryan Poston would have given to this earth,” he said. “He was a tremendously gifted young man. The sky was the limit.”

Snodgrass echoed the sentiments of the Poston family that the number one goal was justice for Ryan Poston.

“We had a lot of faith in this jury,” Snodgrass said. “We knew that they would make the right decision for Ryan.”

Hubers’ defense team was not available for comment.

A formal sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 18 at 1 p.m. At that time, Judge Zalla could follow the recommendation of the jury, or impose a lesser sentence.

Contact Mark Hansel at news@nkytrib.com

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