"Protecting the family": Motive revealed in Fresno woman's murder

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A judge decided Wednesday there is enough evidence for Stanley Pipes to go on trial for murder. (KFSN)

A woman shot to death. Her fiancé slumped on a couch nearby.

"I could see that there was a Ruger 357 revolver next to his right hand," said Sgt. Erich Garringer of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, who was the first on the scene in southeast Fresno in December 2015.

He's now headed to trial for murder, and what exactly was in his head could determine whether he's convicted. A judge decided Wednesday there is enough evidence for Stanley Pipes to go on trial for murder.

Pipes lost his wife in 2013. Two years later, people who know him say he was still depressed. That December, he called one of them with a confession.
He'd killed the woman he'd just recently agreed to marry, and he still had his gun.

"It sounded to me like he was going to kill himself and he did eventually state he was trying to end his life," said the witness.

We're not allowed to identify the witness who answered that call, but he had his wife call the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. Deputies got to the house, heard another gunshot, then burst inside. Kristie Claassen was dead on the floor with five gunshot wounds, including two a forensic pathologist says were shot from close range into her face. Pipes was motionless, but alive, on a couch.

Months earlier, Pipes had talked to the witness about Claassen. He said she wasn't who he initially thought she was, and he thought she might be out for his money. He'd even gotten a letter warning him about that possibility.

"It seemed clear to me that it was talking to Stan from somebody else trying to warn him of Kristie's behavior and that she's done this to other people before," the witness said.

Pipes was the primary caregiver for his mother and brother who were both unable to take care of themselves. But in a jailhouse phone call, detectives say he told relatives he thought Claassen was about to make that impossible by lying about him, so he did what he had to do to protect his family.

"The person that was involved was going to try to take away everything that he had, his mother had, and his brother had by claiming a charge of domestic violence against him and he couldn't allow her to do that," said Adam Maldonado, a homicide detective with the Fresno County Sheriff's Office.

His attorney tells Action News Pipes' defense will revolve around his mental state. He says Pipes wasn't able to premeditate, so if he's guilty, it's of manslaughter, not murder.

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