Prosecutors alleged Monday that accused murderer Jonathan Douglas Shaw made plain his intent to kill just moments before he shot Matthew Hurley dead in the parking lot of Fuel Fitness in Kalispell on Sept. 16, 2021.
“‘You’re gonna die.’ This is what the defendant said seconds before [he] shot Matthew Hurley four times,” said Deputy County Attorney Ashley Frechette in her opening statement in Shaw’s murder trial in Flathead County District Court on July 10.
Shaw, 37, faces felony charges of deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide for his alleged role in the shooting that left one man dead and another wounded. Shaw, who pleaded not guilty in October 2021, also suffered injuries in a subsequent exchange of gunfire with a gym patron outside the fitness center on U.S. 2 in Kalispell.
Hurley, then the gym’s general manager, and another employee, Matt Underhill, approached Shaw that morning to cancel and refund the latter’s membership, according to court documents and courtroom testimony. Hurley had learned that Shaw was living in a trailer in the facility’s parking lot and wanted him to leave.
Shaw refused the refund, instead requesting more money, prosecutors said. Leaving behind an envelope containing a cash refund, Hurley and Underhill headed back to the fitness center.
Unsatisfied, Shaw exited the truck and followed them, Frechette told the jury. Words were exchanged and Shaw leveled his threat at Hurley, she said. Then he pulled out a Walther 9 mm pistol and opened fire, Frechette said.
Shaw’s bullets struck Hurley in the chin, the arm and the side, Frechette said. Two of those wounds were mortal, she said. The last came after Hurley had crumpled to the ground, when Shaw doubled back to pull the trigger one more time, she said.
A fleeing Underhill informed another gym patron of the shooting. That man, identified in court documents as William Keck, retrieved a gun from his vehicle and exchanged fire with Shaw. Both were wounded in the ensuing gun battle, according to court documents and witness testimony.
Frechette said prosecutors built their case around witness accounts, evidence collected at the scene and analysis by the Montana State Crime Lab.
“Throughout this week, the evidence will show that [Shaw] told Hurley he was going to kill him right before he fatally shot him,” Frechette said.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY Paul Simon acknowledged Shaw fired first in his opening argument, but said the 37-year-old acted — in his mind — justifiably. Simon, who is representing Shaw alongside attorney Colin Stephens, told the jury that Shaw saw himself as outnumbered during an increasingly tense confrontation with Hurley and Underhill.
“He assumed people were armed. He was armed. He also was outnumbered,” Simon said. “Fearing for his life in that split second, Mr. Shaw made a decision to draw his handgun and shoot Mr. Hurley four times.”
In Simon’s version of events, Shaw — fueled by adrenaline after shooting Hurley — had retreated to his truck when Keck began shouting commands at him. When Shaw ignored them, Keck began firing, he said.
“We believe the evidence will show that Mr. Keck took the first shot. In total, Keck fired 10 shots that day — four struck Mr. Shaw,” Simon said, telling the jury that Shaw was left seriously wounded.
In hindsight, neither Hurley nor Underhill were armed, Simon said. But Shaw could not know that during the confrontation, he argued.
Shaw, his hair freshly shorn and wearing a white button up shirt, followed the proceedings expressionlessly from the defendant’s table, his head held high.
THE FIRST day’s testimony featured Jennifer Williamson, a personal trainer at the fitness center who crossed paths with Shaw in the parking lot days before the shooting and found him unsettling, and Underhill’s account of the deadly gunfight.
Underhill told jurors that Shaw followed Hurley and himself in “an aggressive manner” as they headed back toward the gym. He also recalled hearing Shaw threaten Hurley.
Hurley, Underhill said, had instructed him to call 911 just seconds beforehand.
“What did [Shaw] say after that?” Deputy County Attorney John Donovan asked.
“He walked toward us and said, ‘Fine, then you’re going to die,’” Underhill recalled.
Throughout, defense attorneys pressed the witnesses on their recollection of events and sought to determine how well they knew Shaw, who was a member of the gym for at least five months before the fatal confrontation. Neither Williamson nor Underhill remembered meeting him prior to September 2021.
Stephens had Underhill describe, movement by movement, how he reached into the pocket of his sweatpants to pull out his phone while turning back to look at Shaw. Simon, meanwhile, probed Williamson’s reaction to Shaw and her efforts in the following days to see Hurley have him removed from the parking lot.
They also noted that the agreement Shaw signed with the fitness center did not outright ban living in the facility’s parking lot.
The pair concluded the day with an unsuccessful request for a mistrial. One of Hurley’s relatives in attendance had cursed at Shaw from the pews in the courtroom, interrupting witness testimony.
“A member of the audience called my client a son of a [expletive] and [expletive] in open court,” Stephens told Judge Dan Wilson, who is presiding over the case. “I don’t know if anything could be more prejudicial than that in front of a jury.”
While describing the display as undesirable, Wilson noted that he interrupted the outburst and warned the audience against any further disruptions. The judge said he would instruct the jury to disregard the cursing when court reconvened.
News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or [email protected].