It took jurors just three hours to convict a 40-year-old Colorado man for the 2016 murder of his 35-year-old wife, who was killed two days after meeting with a divorce attorney, PEOPLE learns.
A statement from the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office confirms Gary Lee Nickal, of Westminster, was found guilty on Thursday of murdering Molly Nickal with two shotgun blasts — including one to her head.
The couple’s three small children were at their house at the time of the slaying, on April 28, 2016.
Gary “ambushed” his wife that morning as she was in the bathroom, prosecutors said. He unsuccessfully argued an insanity defense at trial.
Following his conviction, he was sentenced the next day to life in prison.
It was unclear Tuesday if he plans to appeal the verdict. His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
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“The evidence at trial showed that Gary and Molly Nickal had a difficult relationship,” reads the prosecution’s statement, which was obtained by PEOPLE. “She had left him several times because he was emotionally abusive and volatile.”
The couple had been separated for several months before the birth of their third child, in February 2016.
“Molly then went back to him, one more time, for financial reasons and to try to keep the family together,” prosecutors said.
Still, it seems the relationship became unsustainable and “two days before she was murdered, Molly contacted an attorney to begin the process of having Gary served with divorce papers and getting sole custody of the children,” according to the district attorney’s office.
“She was also getting her affairs in order while making plans to leave and take the children with her,” they said.
“This is such a tragedy,” said District Attorney Pete Weir in the statement.
“Molly was drawn back to him again and again with hope that it would be different, that he would change,” Weir added. “Mr. Nickal deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.”