Sunnyside homeowner killed fiancée for financial reasons, prosecutors say

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Stanley Pipes doesn't deny he shot Kristie Claassen, but his attorney says he had a mental defect at the time. Prosecutors say what he really had was a recent discovery about his fiancée. (KFSN)

A Sunnyside homeowner is standing trial for murder right now in the death of his fiancée - a deadly shooting and a killer in a strange state of mind.

Stanley Pipes doesn't deny he shot Kristie Claassen, but his attorney says he had a mental defect at the time. Prosecutors say what he really had was a recent discovery about his fiancée.

Sheriff's deputies burst into the Sunnyside home after hearing the second set of gunshots in Dec. 2015. On the floor, they found Claassen.

"As she was rolled onto the side, we observed holes in the carpet below her head," said Fresno County Sheriff's Office crime scene investigator John Bawcom.

Those holes in the carpet lead investigators to believe she was shot at close range while lying on the ground. Not far away from the body, her killer lay motionless but alive on a couch, with a revolver right by his hand.

Stanley Pipes was Claassen's fiancé and the owner of the house. After the first of at least seven gunshots, a friend we're not identifying says Pipes called with a confession, and a story about a letter he received.

"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. Detectives say, in a jailhouse phone call, he told relatives he thought Claassen was about to make that impossible.

They say he'd recently found her looking through his financial documents and believed she was about to make a false domestic violence report, then take all his money while he was in jail. They say Pipes told family members he did what he had to do to protect his family.

His attorney says Pipes was incapable of premeditation so he couldn't commit murder. Blood tests showed he had enough opiates and alcohol in his system to be very impaired.

A person with that level of drugs and alcohol in his system would "be falling asleep, disoriented, etc.," said forensic toxicologist Dr. Alan Barbour. "It wouldn't be lethal by itself."

Pipes' attorney says he's arguing for manslaughter in the case -- which could mean the difference between a few years in prison and a life sentence.
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