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It took just 26 minutes for a jury to convict William Thomas “Tommy” Chisholm of storming into a Walmart Vision Center and fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend to death as her coworkers and patients watched in horror.
Dr. Shauna Witt, 42, an Mississippi optometrist who ran the eye center, died Jan. 13, 2018, the same day a restraining order she had taken out against Chisholm had expired, according to The Dispatch.
“Moments like these are why we do our jobs—to hold people accountable for horrible decisions like this because we want to show people that’s not the kind of community we have here in Starkville,” District Attorney Scott Colom said during a press conference after the verdict, according to the paper.
Chisholm, 44, was sentenced to life in prison shortly after the jury convicted him Friday of capital murder for Witt’s death. Her family had asked prosecutors not to seek the death penalty because they didn’t want the case drawn out in the legal system, Colum said.
Chisholm and Witt had been in an “on again, off again” dating relationship before Witt broke off the romance for good and took out the restraining order against him, local station WTVA reports.
Witt’s coworker, Kaylace Beatty Dorman, testified during the trial that Witt had been in an exam room with a patient and her young daughter when Chisholm walked into the vision center on Jan. 13, 2018 and confronted Witt.
Dorman said that Witt told Chisholm to leave the office, but he pulled out a gun. Witt ran for a nearby door, but it was too late and she was shot multiple times.
“I remember hearing shots,” Dorman said on the stand, according to the local paper. “I remember looking at her, looking at Dr. Witt, and I was thinking, ‘She’s going to get away,’ and then I saw her getting hit. She fell down in the corner right by the door.”
Another coworker, Heather Ashley, described the shooting to jurors as the “worst day of her life” and recounted how she called 911 after the gunfire erupted.
“I explained to them, from what I knew, that my boss had a restraining order against Tommy and that he was there and that he wasn’t supposed to be there,” she said.
Ashley testified that when Witt broke off the romance a month earlier, Chisholm had allegedly burned all of her possessions in anger, prompting Witt to seek the restraining order.
Chisholm’s defense attorney, Mark Cliett, never denied that Chisholm had killed Witt, but argued that he should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Cliett had hoped a licensed professional counselor, Dr. Jennifer Carroll, would be able to testify about his mental state, but Carroll was disqualified for not being a licensed psychologist.
After the verdict was handed down Friday, Bo Oswalt, a spokesperson for the family, thanked all those who helped achieve justice for Witt.
“Shauna’s motto for her life was ‘Choose joy,’” he said, according to the paper. “If you know anything about joy, it’s a long-term thing. It doesn’t depend on the immediate circumstances. It’s just placing your hope and your trust into something that is long-term. This is what we have chosen. We have chosen to choose joy over these last three and a half years.”
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