John J. Quas has repeatedly denied killing his wife, contending she killed herself. On Tuesday, he took the witness stand to plead his innocence once again.
The jury didn't believe him. After deliberating just over three hours, the eight-member panel found Quas guilty of second-degree murder. Quas, 38, was returned to the Salt Lake County Jail until sentencing, set for July 10 before 3rd District Judge Kenneth Rigtrup.Before beginning their deliberations Tuesday evening, jurors heard two completely different versions of what happened to Susan M. Quas, 35, who died in the couple's West Valley home nearly two years ago.
Deputy Salt Lake County Attorney Scott Matheson Jr. said the evidence leads to one "inescapable" conclusion: Quas "shot the gun and put a bullet through her eye."
But legal defender Lisa Remal said the only logical scenario is "the one that (Mrs. Quas) took her own life."
Matheson said the case against Quas is made strong by expert testimony, physical evidence and Quas' own statements.
"Brick by brick, layer by layer . . . the multitude of evidence in this case has erected walls of guilt."
Matheson spent much time pointing out the "incredible and wildly inconsistent statements of John Quas," who took the witness stand Tuesday in his own defense.
"Almost every time that he opened his mouth, he built the case against himself," Matheson told the jury.
The most serious inconsistency, Matheson said, was in Quas' timing of the events. Quas told police that while he was in the shower he heard a shot and ran to find his wife dead in the living room. He then called the police, who, according to testimony, arrived within five minutes.
A neighbor, though, heard a shot from the Quas home but didn't see the police arrive for 20 minutes. And a paramedic testified that Mrs. Quas appeared to have been dead considerably longer than five minutes.
What did Quas do during those 20 minutes? Matheson, referring to towels that were found in the washing machine, suggested that Quas shot his wife and then cleaned up.
"The shower story was fiction, a cover-up and a very poor one at that," Matheson said. Quas was dry and dirty, according to the testimony of police officers who arrived on the scene the night of June 15, 1987.
Matheson reminded the jury that forensics experts testified to finding no evidence that Mrs. Quas fired the .44-caliber handgun.
In fact, Matheson said, state medical examiner Todd Grey is certain that Mrs. Quas' death was a homicide.
But Remal called into question the findings of the police and the experts. "This was not an objective investigation . . . not a search for fact or truth. It was a search for a conclusion and then a search for facts to support that conclusion."
The defender argued that the forensics findings are inconclusive and based on faulty experiments.
Remal said Mrs. Quas was a "confused and desperate woman" in the midst of a martial crisis and would go so far as to cut her wrists for her husband's attention.