Her husband was murdered. Now, in a stranger-than-fiction twist, the killer is suing her from prison for causing him emotional distress. The lawsuit of Washington Department of Corrections inmate Larry Shandola against Paula Henry goes to court in Tacoma on Friday.
The story begins 20 years ago. On September 11, 1995, Robert Henry was gunned down after leaving his office at North Coast Electric in Tacoma. His former business associate, Larry Shandola, would eventually be convicted of the crime.
But, in the five years it took police to bring charges against Shandola, he worked alongside Robert’s widow, Paula Henry, at Tacoma Public Utilities.
“He was the prime suspect in her husband’s murder, but she saw him almost on a daily basis, and he did things to annoy and harass her back then. He would sit across from her at the lunch table, stare at her from across the room and stop in the hallways and stare at her as she walked by,” said John Ladenburg, Paula Henry’s attorney.
Ladenburg says that was just the beginning of Shandola’s pattern of harassment of Paula Henry.
From prison, where he was serving a 31 year sentence for the murder of Henry's husband, Shandola filed a lawsuit against Henry in 2013. He claimed she had violated his privacy rights and more by writing a letter to the Washington Department of Corrections objecting to Shandola's request for a transfer to a Canadian prison. Henry has said she was worried Shandola would be harder to keep track of if he were in Canada.
“He’s claiming that Paula defamed his character and inflicted emotional distress on him," said Ladenburg.
Shandola’s suit was thrown out under the Washington's strict anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute, which essentially bars frivolous lawsuits that silence free expression.
But, in May, the Washington Supreme Court, in Davis v. Cox, ruled Washington's anti-SLAPP law is unconstitutional.
Now, Larry Shandola is again taking Paula Henry to court.
Attorney Ladenburg says, with so many prisoners becoming jail house lawyers, perpetrators suing victims isn’t as unusual as you might think.
And, of course, prisoners do have a constitutional right to use the courts.
For her part, Paula Henry has helped pass a Washington law that requires judges to review suits like Shandola’s before they go to a victims’ family. But the law is not retroactive and doesn’t apply in Henry's case.
She's now working to get a federal law passed, similar to the Washington law.