LAS VEGAS – A jury that found a former Las Vegas firefighter guilty of murder and conspiracy for hiring an ex-convict to kill his estranged wife is convening again to decide if he'll ever have a chance to get out of prison.
George Miguel Tiaffay had no visible reaction as the verdict was read Thursday in Clark County District Court.
The 43-year-old former high school valedictorian, U.S. Military Academy graduate and 10-year firefighter was found guilty of all seven charges — murder, conspiracy, burglary and robbery charges with weapon enhancements — in the September 2012 slaying of Shauna Tiaffay.
George Tiaffay was returned in custody to the Clark County jail, where he has been in custody since crashing his pickup truck as police closed in to arrest him in October 2012.
Judge Eric Johnson told the jurors they still need to determine Tiaffay's sentence, and members will reconvene Friday. The death penalty isn't under consideration, so the seven men and five women will decide if he'll get life in state prison without parole, 20 years to life, or 20 to 50 years.
The minimum Tiaffay will serve under any option is 21 years, prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo said.
Shauna Tiaffay, 46, the working mother of an 8-year-old daughter, was attacked and killed as she returned home about 3:30 a.m. Sept. 29, 2012, from a night shift as a cocktail server at the Palms Casino Hotel.
A medical examiner testified that she found at least 17 hammer blows to Shauna Tiaffay's fractured skull, and broken fingers and bones in her hand showing that she tried to fend off the attack.
George Tiaffay didn't commit the attack. He was found guilty of convincing the homeless man, Noel Scott Stevens, to do it.
Stevens, 40, admitted hiding in the apartment and hitting Shauna Tiaffay with the head of the hammer even after the wooden handle broke.
Stevens pleaded guilty in January 2013 to murder, conspiracy, burglary and robbery charges. He faces at least 21 years in state prison when he's sentenced in coming weeks. He told the jury he expects to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Stevens testified that George Tiaffay promised him $5,000, bought the murder weapon and other supplies, and plotted several methods before the deed was finally done.
"Who told you to kill Shauna?" DiGiacomo asked during Stevens' testimony last week.
"George did," Stevens responded.
Tiaffay was at work when the murder occurred, and their daughter was with him when he went to Shauna Tiaffay's apartment later that morning and discovered her bloody body.
"Shauna was brutally murdered," the victim's sister, Paula Stokes-Richards of Brentwood, Tennessee, told reporters on Thursday. "So many people loved Shauna. We're just happy and satisfied the jury saw the truth."
District Attorney Steve Wolfson said outside court that justice had been served.
One of Tiaffay's sisters, Maria McGrew, heard that comment in the hallway. "Not everyone thinks justice was served," she said.
With the penalty question unresolved, neither DiGiacomo nor defense attorney Robert Langford would comment about the verdict.
Langford suggested Stevens' testimony against the man who befriended him and sometimes hired him for odd jobs was tainted by a plea deal that spared Stevens the death penalty.
Langford cast the four-time convicted felon as mentally unstable and his testimony as not credible.
George Tiaffay didn't testify. But jurors heard his voice in an hour-long statement to police, recorded days before he was arrested.
The jury was told that Tiaffay wanted to keep his wife from getting his money.
The broken murder weapon was found buried near one of Stevens' homeless encampments in the desert outside Las Vegas, along with bloody jeans with DNA matching Stevens and Shauna Tiaffay.