San Juan Island man gets nine-year prison term for near-fatal shooting

A San Juan Island man who shot his girlfriend in the chest with a handgun at point-blank range was ordered to serve nine years in prison after pleading no contest in mid-July to first-degree assault, a class A felony.

On Aug. 12, Douglas Paul Curnow, 36, was sentenced in San Juan County Superior Court to a total of 112 months in prison and ordered to pay $1,550 in fines and fees. The amount of restitution Curnow will be ordered to pay will be determined at a hearing slated for mid-October.

It's the lengthiest sentence handed down in a San Juan County court in more than a decade, and possibly two, but Lisa Barry would have been just fine had it been longer.

According to court documents, Barry, who credits local paramedics with saving her life, testified at the sentencing hearing that she doesn't believe the shooting was accidental, despite Curnow's claims, or that her ex-boyfriend is truly remorseful about having pulled the trigger.

She was airlifted to a Seattle hospital with a collapsed lung and a shattered shoulder blade. She underwent two emergency surgeries and spent six days in an intensive care unit.

"I feel the sentence asked for by the prosecutor is minimally fair, but would not be disappointed if the court chose to assign a longer one," Barry said.

Prosecutors had sought a 10-year prison term.

In July, Curnow pleaded no contest, also known as an Alford plea, to one count of first-degree assault and to unlawful possession of a weapon, a class C felony. A convicted felon at the time of the shooting, Curnow was prohibited from having a gun in his possession.

By pleading no contest, Curnow did not admit committing either crime, but acknowledged that he would likely be convicted based on evidence that would have been presented had his case gone to trial. A defendant can be sentenced as if he or she had been convicted of the crime of which they're charged regardless of a no contest plea.

First-degree assault carries maximum penalties of life in prison, a $50,000 fine, or both; however, the standard range of sentencing set by the state is 111-147 months in prison.

State law requires that Curnow serve no less than five years in prison because the charge of first-degree assault of which he was convicted involved a weapon and the use of deadly force. He was credited for the time he's been in Island County Jail since his arrest on Feb. 10; bail had been set at $100,000.

Deputies and paramedics arrived at the couple's home on Lillan Lane shortly after Curnow called 9-1-1 saying he accidentally shot his girlfriend. One spent casing was found in the dining room and, according to court documents, officers found no sign that a struggle or altercation occurred prior to the shooting.

Three handguns, including a .40-caliber revolver used in the shooting, and assorted ammunition, were found inside the home during the investigation.

According to court documents, Curnow said at the time of his arrest that the couple had been "playing around" with a handgun late that evening and that he didn't know it was loaded. He claimed that twice he pointed the gun at Barry and that each time she told him to "bring it."

Nothing happened the first time he pulled the trigger, but the gun fired the second time. Barry was struck just above the sternum and the bullet shattered a shoulder blade as it exited her body.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates