Shawn Tyler pleads guilty to murder in beating death of Hurley landlady Ann E. Gaffney
KINGSTON, N.Y. — The man accused of fatally beating his landlady last December in her Hurley home pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Tuesday and faces a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison, according to the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office.
Shawn Tyler, 35, entered his plea before Ulster County Judge Donald A. Williams and is to be sentenced on July 10.
The expected sentence is less than the maximum for first-degree murder, which is life in prison with no chance for parole. District Attorney Holley Carnright said his office is recommending the slightly more lenient sentence based on several factors, including the feelings of the victim’s family.
The landlady, Ann E. Gaffney, 54, died after being beaten on Dec. 21 in her home at 369 Old Route 209 in Hurley, where Tyler and his girlfriend rented a room, Carnright said.
Carnright said Tyler went to the basement of the home, where Gaffney was sleeping, woke her and then struck her from behind with a sledgehammer he had taken to the basement for that purpose. The sledgehammer was taken from the kitchen area of the home, Carnright said.
After bludgeoning Gaffney, Tyler took $270 in cash and an ATM card from her, and he used the money to buy crack cocaine, Carnright said.
Autopsy results showed Gaffney died of multiple rib fractures that pierced her lungs, Carnright said.
“We feel from the autopsy results that she did not die immediately” and that she suffered, the prosecutor said.
The attack occurred in the early morning, Carnright said, adding that Tyler’s girlfriend, whose name he did not provide, was asleep upstairs at the time and that other people were in the house.
Carnright said Tyler told his girlfriend later in the day about what had happened and that she initially didn’t believe him. After the two went to the basement and the girlfriend saw Gaffney, she “freaked” and called 911, Carnright said. Continued...
In a statement to police, Tyler said he initially intended to hide Gaffney’s body, Carnright said.
Gaffney was found dead in the home shortly after 8 p.m. on Dec. 21. Tyler was found about three hours later, hiding under a trailer on a property less than a mile away.
During a preliminary hearing in Hurley Town Court, state police Investigator Mario Restivo testified Tyler said he struck Gaffney 15 times with the hammer and took $270 in cash from her pocket. Tyler also took an ATM card from Gaffney and then searched the house until he found her personal identification number, Restivo said. The investigator said Tyler then used the card to withdraw $280 from an ATM.
Restivo said Gaffney was still alive when Tyler took the money from her between 12:30 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. Dec. 21.
The 911 call to report the homicide was made at 8:06 p.m.
Statements Tyler made in entering his guilty plea included that he felt terrible about killing Gaffney, Carnright said. He said, though, that Tyler had said he intended to kill Gaffney.
“It was really a horrible case,” Carnright said. He said he has handled his “share of murder cases over the years. This one was particularly chilling.”
Ulster County Assistant Public Defender Jonathan Sennett represented Tyler.
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