BECKLEY, W.Va. – A West Virginia man's obsession with an ex-girlfriend led him to kill her mother and a friend, and then to stalk her for decades — even after he went to prison, court officials say. Now his obsession has netted him a new prison sentence of nearly 20 years.
Thomas C. Shrader was sentenced Thursday to 19-years and 7-months. U.S. District Judge Irene Berger opted for the maximum under proposed penalties for offenders deemed armed career criminals.
"You've refused to move on. You've refused to let go, causing such difficulties," Berger told the 56-year-old. "You've pursued this obsession for about 35 years. The sentence is appropriate and necessary."
Separate juries had found Shrader guilty earlier this year of interstate stalking and of being a felon in possession of firearms.
Most recently, Shrader had tracked down the woman and her family in Texas before phoning her and then last year sending her a 32-page ultimatum that warned, "Running won't do you any good."
The FBI found long guns in Shrader's Mercer County home when he was arrested after sending the letter.
"This case involves a lifetime of terror," Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Ryan told Berger. "He has never come to grips with what he has done to (the victim) and her family."
Shrader, who is appealing his convictions, chose not to speak at his sentencing. Assistant U.S. Public Defender Christian Capece argued without success that the armed career criminal penalty should not apply to Shrader. Capece said Shrader has maintained his innocence, and noted the yearlong periods when there was no contact between him and the onetime girlfriend.
The woman, identified in court papers only as D.S., and her husband addressed the court and urged the toughest sentence.
"It's hard to explain the horrific fear that we've been through," the woman said. "This is a pattern by this man throughout my life."
At the stalking trial, the woman testified that she and Shrader had dated in high school, but Shrader refused to accept their breakup. One July 1975 day, after she refused his orders to get into his car, Shrader returned to her home with a rifle.
Blasting his way through a locked door, Shrader fatally shot Howard Adams Jr., a family friend who was visiting while on leave from the military. The woman said her mother was fatally wounded while trying to flee. The daughter ran to a neighbor's house, where Shrader pursued her and continued firing. He had wounded the neighbor's son before he was restrained by others before police arrived.
Shrader pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and to unlawful wounding, and was sentenced to a life term with a chance for parole.
Capece urged the judge not to accept the woman's testimony without reviewing any other evidence from that incident.
While in prison, Shrader tried to sue the ex-girlfriend, alleging she had promised to marry him. He also escaped from the McDowell County Jail in the late 1970s. In the 2009 letter, he told the woman he had gone to her house to look for her while on the lam. He pleaded guilty to escape in 1979, adding a year to his earlier sentence.
Court filings show Shrader tried to locate the woman both while he was in prison and once he won parole in 1993. During Thursday's hearing, Berger focused on his 2008 phone calls and the 32-page letter Shrader sent in October 2009.
The judge read aloud from excerpts, ruling that the letter contained both explicit and implied threats. Demanding that the ex-girlfriend make amends after failing to return Shrader's declared love for her, it concludes by giving the woman two weeks to respond.
"I now have formulated a plan I'm looking to fulfill," it read in part. "Running won't do you any good this time. It's time to face the piper."