To those who didn’t know them, Ryan Poston and Shayna Hubers seemed like a couple worthy of envy. He was a handsome 29-year-old Cincinnati attorney with a winning smile, a love of chess and a career he enjoyed. She was a good-looking striver: only 21 years old and already pursuing a graduate degree. Their courtship began when he added her on Facebook after stumbling across her striking spring break pictures. Soon, they were looking good together.
But the façade collapsed some 18 months later, on October 12, 2012, when Hubers shot and killed Poston at his apartment in the tiny Cincinnati suburb of Highland Heights, Kentucky.
“I’m not a murderer,” Hubers told 911 operators, her voice overwhelmed with emotion in a recording that airs on an episode of A&E’s Killer Cases on Thursday, December 17 at 10/9c. “I just killed him in self-defense.”
Hubers told 911 that the incident with Poston had been the violent climax to an episode of domestic abuse. But as Hubers continued to recall the events to the operator, she began incriminating herself.
“Because he was twitching and I knew he was going to die anyway—and he was making funny noises—I shot him a couple more times,” Hubers said. “He was twitching so bad, and I didn’t want to watch him lay there and twitch.”
When police found his body, Poston had been shot six times.
“Pretty much every side of his body, he’d been shot at,” Highland Heights Police Chief Bill Birkenhauer said.
And at the murder scene, there were few indications of a domestic disturbance: The living room was orderly, and there was no evidence on Hubers’ body to suggest a physical assault.
Hubers was brought to a police station in Highland Heights, where she was interrogated by police officer Dave Fornash. After Hubers initially indicated that she wanted an attorney, she began to share her story without legal representation.
During her interrogation, she appeared unremorseful. She made morbid jokes about the murder, noting that Poston had wanted a nose job. “I shot him right here,” she said, pointing at her nose. “I gave him his nose job.”
When police left the interrogation room, Hubers’ behavior got stranger. She danced around the interview room: pirouetting, singing.
Michelle Snodgrass, lead prosecutor of Hubers’ case, told Killer Cases that while she recognizes that people behave abnormally when in shock, she’d never heard “that somebody pirouettes when they’re in shock. That someone sings when they’re in shock. That someone snaps their fingers and says, ‘I did it!’ when they’re in shock.”
Hubers went to trial in April 2015.
Prosecutors claimed that the woman was obsessed with Poston, sometimes sending him 50 to 100 texts a day, and stalking him at home and at work. They say she was motivated by Poston’s stated desire to end their tumultuous, on-again, off-again relationship, with the murderous violence ultimately triggered by his landing a date with Miss Ohio 2012, Audrey Bolte.
The trial lasted for two weeks; in her trial, Hubers’ defense repeated the domestic violence claim laid out in her initial 911 call. But the jury was unmoved and convicted Hubers of murder after only five hours of deliberation.
At her sentencing, Campbell County Circuit Court Judge Fred A. Stine called Poston’s murder “as cold-blooded an act as I’ve been associated with in the criminal justice system.” He gave her 40 years, with no parole eligibility for the first 34 years.
But the following year, Judge Stine overturned the conviction when it came to light that a felon had sat on the jury—which is not allowed under Kentucky law.
Hubers hired a different defense attorney, David Eldridge, for her retrial. In court, Eldridge offered a new defense. Rather than claiming physical self-defense, “our approach was to focus more on the extreme emotional disturbance,” Eldridge told Killer Cases, noting that there’s an “extreme emotional disturbance” exception for murder cases in Kentucky which downgrades a murder charge to manslaughter.
According to Eldridge, Hubers’ emotional disturbance occurred because Poston was verbally abusive to her, berating her constantly. A psychologist testified that she was likely suffering from PTSD and borderline personality disorder. The defense also claimed that Poston was distressed because of emotional fallout and frustration in the relationship tied to her inability to achieve orgasm.
But the prosecution had numerous witnesses who helped enforce a narrative of cold-blooded premeditation. Hubers had sent texts to a friend prior to the murder in which she joked about wanting to “accidentally” shoot Poston at a gun range. A sales clerk from the local mall, Tara Filliater, testified that she overheard Hubers telling Filliater’s coworker that she was going to kill her boyfriend only hours before the shooting.
As with the first trial, Hubers’ new trial yielded a guilty verdict on August 28, 2018. This time, instead of being sentenced to 40 years, she was given life.
“There is no satisfaction,” said Adam Bleile, a friend of Poston’s told Killer Cases. “There’s no relief… I hope her today is worse than it was yesterday, and I hope tomorrow is worse than it is today… There’d be no penalty severe enough for there to be justice.”
Where is Shayna Hubers Now?
During her retrial, Hubers married Unique Taylor, a transgender woman, while in jail. On January 14, 2019, Hubers filed for a divorce at the Campbell County Family Court, according to court records. The filing stated the marriage was “irretrievably broken.”
Hubers is currently serving her sentence at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women.