STARKVILLE — William Thomas “Tommy” Chisholm will spend the rest of his life in prison after an Oktibbeha County Circuit Court jury found him guilty Friday of capital murder.
Chisholm, 44, of Kosciusko, fatally shot his ex-girlfriend, Dr. Shauna Witt, an optometrist who ran the eye clinic at Walmart Vision Center on Highway 12 in Starkville, on Jan. 13, 2018. After the four-day trial, the jury deliberated only 26 minutes Friday before delivering the verdict.
Because Chisholm is convicted of capital murder, the only sentencing options are life in prison or the death penalty. The victim’s family asked prosecutors not to pursue the death penalty because that indictment could potentially delay the trial, and they wanted justice as soon as possible, District Attorney Scott Colom said.
Colom, in a press conference following the verdict, said his team worked tirelessly over the past three years to get to this point and is glad Chisholm is finally “getting what he deserves.”
“Moments like these are why we do our jobs — to hold people accountable for horrible decisions like this because we want to show people that’s not the kind of community we have here in Starkville,” Colom said. “… When people bring that kind of violence to Starkville, we’re going to hold you accountable to the extent that we can.”
Chisholm’s defense attorney, Mark Cliett of West Point, said he and his client are discussing a possible appeal.
In his closing argument, Cliett said he thought his client could plead “heat of passion” manslaughter, but that was not an option. He asked the jury to consider finding Chisholm not guilty on reason of insanity, even though the witness the defense brought forward to testify to Chisholm’s mental capacity — licensed professional counselor Dr. Jennifer Carroll — was ruled unqualified to testify when she took the stand Thursday because she is not a licensed psychologist.
“I think the theme of my argument is sometimes things don’t work out,” Cliett said. “I mean in general, in life, in relationships, in this trial, sometimes things don’t work out.”
Colom said Dr. Witt’s family can now rest knowing justice has been served. Bo Oswalt, the family’s spokesperson, said there have been a multitude of brave and kind acts displayed to them over the years from the DA’s office and Starkville Police Department, and the family is forever grateful for their dedication to this case.
“Shuana’s motto for her life was ‘Choose joy,’” Oswalt said at the post-conviction press conference. “If you know anything about joy, it’s a long-term thing. It doesn’t depend on the immediate circumstances. It’s just placing your hope and your trust into something that is long-term. This is what we have chosen. We have chosen to choose joy over these last three and a half years.”