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LAS VEGAS – A Nevada jury is due to hear openings Tuesday in the trial of a 43-year-old U.S. Military Academy graduate and former Las Vegas firefighter accused of hiring a homeless man to kill his estranged wife nearly three years ago.
George Miguel Tiaffay has pleaded not guilty in Clark County District Court to charges including murder and conspiracy that could get him life in prison in the September 2012 slaying of Shauna Tiaffay.
Tiaffay isn't accused of killing his wife himself. Authorities say he was at work when the 46-year-old mother of their 8-year-old daughter was bludgeoned to death as she returned home from a midnight shift at the Palms Casino Hotel.
Former co-defendant Noel Scott Stevens pleaded guilty in January 2013 to charges including murder and conspiracy, and awaits sentencing. He's expected to face a 20 years to life in state prison.
Defense attorney Robert Langford and prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo declined to talk about the case as they prepared for jury selection, which started Monday. Judge Eric Johnson has scheduled trial to take about three weeks.
Stevens is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution, describing how Tiaffay paid him $600 and provided a key to Shauna Tiaffay's apartment. He told a grand jury he hit her 17 times with a hammer.
Paramedics told investigators they couldn't tell if Shauna Tiaffay had been shot or bludgeoned, and that injuries to her right hand appeared to be defensive wounds.
Tiaffay had his daughter with him when he arrived at Shauna Tiaffay's apartment early Sept. 29, 2012, and found the bloody murder scene, police said.
Authorities said the conspiracy unraveled after Stevens, who went by the name Greyhound, bragged about the slaying to someone who contacted police. Police said Stevens told another witness that he'd been promised $20,000 for the killing.
As police prepared to interview George Tiaffay, he was badly injured behind the wheel of a speeding pickup truck that slammed into a concrete retaining wall. The wreck occurred shortly after detectives told his mother and sister that they believed he may have been involved in his wife's death.
Investigators reported finding that Tiaffay telephoned Stevens more than 80 times in the month before the slaying. They reported finding jeans with blood that matched Shauna Tiaffay in one of Stevens' tents, a key to her apartment in a shed that Stevens sometimes used, a dress and swimsuit bottom in Shauna Tiaffay's size, and a ski mask with holes cut for eyes.
Officials said that surveillance video from a store showed Tiaffay and Stevens together buying a hammer, knife and gloves several weeks before the slaying. Tiaffay said Stevens sometimes did handyman jobs for him.