SALEM — A judge has denied an effort to suppress what she described as “self-serving” statements by a man charged with killing one girlfriend and months later severely beating the next woman he dated.
John T. Shairs, 52, is charged with second degree murder in the December, 2020 death of longtime girlfriend Tina Amore, 49, in a Salem apartment. He is also charged with assault and battery causing serious bodily injury on a second woman he’d started dating, just weeks later.
Shairs has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In an interview with police on March 9, 2021, Shairs denied assaulting either of the women during an interview with Salem and state police detectives.
Instead, he claimed, the women had hurt themselves falling.
But in July, he and his attorney, Michael Phelan, sought to persuade Judge Kathleen McCarthy-Neyman that when Shairs spoke to the investigators, he’d consumed not only the six beers he’d told police that day but part of a bottle of vodka, and was therefore too intoxicated to voluntarily consent to questioning.
They asked the judge to bar prosecutors from using the statements at trial.
A prosecutor objected, noting that the veteran investigators, one of them with 31 years on the job, believed that Shairs was fully aware of his circumstances and that six beers was likely the amount he needed just to avoid alcohol withdrawal.
In a decision filed earlier this month, McCarthy-Neyman shared the prosecutor’s view.
While Shairs had been drinking the day of his arrest and interview, he was “not to the point” where his statements would be rendered involuntary.
His “conduct illustrates that he was alert, coherent, and oriented to person, time and place,” the judge wrote.
Shairs “understood the questions posed to him and had the presence of mind to make self-serving statements,” in response to those questions by Salem Police Detective Robert Cunningham and then-state police detective Josh Ulrich.
He also told police he understood the rights they read to him from a sheet and signed each line, the judge noted.
The charges against Shairs came following the completion of a medical examiner’s report that found Amore had died from blunt trauma. In the course of investigating that, police learned of a second victim who had been taken to Salem Hospital in January or February with what turned out to be severe brain trauma.
Police were called to the 11 Roslyn St. apartment where Shairs was staying, for a report of domestic abuse, on March 9.
Shairs’ new girlfriend had a bloody nose when they arrived.
He would later claim that her bloody nose was the result of a fall, and also claimed that he’d taken her to the hospital previously, that she was discharged, and then as she left, she fell and struck her head on the hospital grounds.
Police noted that they found no evidence of a fall outside the hospital.
The woman, police say, had suffered a traumatic injury to her brain.
Asked about Amore, Shairs told police that the she had struck her head on the sink and suggested that he was only culpable for buying her wine.
A status conference is scheduled for Oct. 11 in the case.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis