SAN JOSE -- A jury didn't buy David Shackelford's story that it was an accident, a bump in the heat of an argument, that sent a filet knife plunging through his ex-girlfriend's throat last year, taking less than two hours to convict him of first-degree murder.
Santa Clara County prosecutors said Melanie Dunn and her family had tried to help Shackelford, a 27-year-old parolee from Virginia, get back on his feet and he had been living in their East San Jose home. But according to police reports, the night before she was killed on Feb. 10, 2011, Dunn ended a 10-month relationship with Shackelford and told him she was seeing someone new.
Prosecutor James Leonard said the popular 27-year-old, who had studied at UC Berkeley, wanted Shackelford out of the house.
After an evening that included a series of angry text messages between the two, Dunn returned from her job as a waitress at the tony Clift Hotel in San Francisco. Investigators believe Shackelford was waiting for her with the thin knife in hand and another blade stashed under her bed.
Dunn's parents and brother were sleeping in adjacent rooms when they were awakened by loud banging on the wall, Leonard said.
They rushed into Dunn's bedroom to find her fatally wounded and a bloody Shackelford lying in bed next to her.
Shackelford originally told police that Dunn had stabbed herself, then changed the story for the trial and said Dunn was holding the knife as they argued, and he accidentally struck her hand and the knife went into her throat, Leonard said.
However, a medical examiner testified that Dunn's injury was such that neither scenario was plausible.
The trial lasted two weeks. Shackelford faces 25 years to life in prison at his Sept. 14 sentencing.
"The tragedy of this is that this woman and her family tried to help this man, to get him a job and give him a place to stay," Leonard wrote in a news release Tuesday. "To thank them for their trouble, he killed her."