El Cajon

A former supervisor at a nuclear power plant was found guilty Tuesday--for the second time--of murdering his wife after he had been drinking.

Jurors in the second trial of Richard Shaputis, 54, found him guilty of second-degree murder in the Jan. 24, 1987, shooting of his wife, Erma Shaputis, 49, in their El Cajon home.

He was found guilty of the same charge in 1988, but the 4th District Court of Appeals overturned his conviction last year, ruling that the first judge erred by allowing evidence about Shaputis’ prior misdemeanor child-molestation conviction to be heard by the first jury.

Superior Court Judge Bernard Revak set sentencing for May 29.


Shaputis faces a sentence of 17-years-to-life in state prison. He has been in custody since his first conviction.

Shaputis did not testify in his second trial, but in the first one he told jurors he often worked 14 hours a day as a supervisor at the San Onofre nuclear power plant. He said he came home one day and began drinking and firing a gun into the fireplace. Shaputis said his wife of 23 years got into the way of the bullets.

His wife was fatally wounded in the throat. Shaputis’ lawyer, Michael Berg, contended the shooting was accidental, but Berg also suggested to jurors that they could convict him of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Lamborn argued that the shooting was not accidental, as tests showed the gun was 12-16 inches away from Mrs. Shaputis when it was fired.