GONZALES — Jaris Howard, convicted of fatally shooting his wife while their child was in the home, failed to change his past ways of criminality in the lead-up the 2014 shooting, had no right to take her life and so must serve a maximum prison term, a judge ruled.

A state district judge cited those factors this week in sentencing the 36-year-old Howard to 40 years in state prison, the maximum for his manslaughter conviction in the Donaldsonville domestic slaying five years ago.

In potent written sentencing reasons that speak directly to the defendant and comment more broadly on domestic violence, the judge noted the loss and pain that the death of 27-year-old Shella "Shay" Thomas Howard has brought for her mother and her daughter and for Jaris Howard's family.

"Domestic cases are far too prevalent in our society and when it ends in death, it results in consequences that affect all aspects of the family unit, especially when a child is involved," 23rd Judicial District Judge Alvin Turner Jr. wrote. "This case squarely fits that scenario."

Turner wrote that it was clear Jaris Howard's mother and sister love him based on their testimony at trial. However, the judge noted, "there are consequences for one's actions."

"Mr. Howard, the victim was your wife, not your property," Turner wrote. "You didn't bring her into this world and you had no right to take her life."

Jaris Howard, formerly of 1103 Maginnis St., Donaldsonville, had faced a second-degree murder charge at trial this spring, but an Ascension Parish jury convicted him, 10-2, of the lesser charge of manslaughter on April 23.

Prosecutors in Ascension accused Jaris Howard of firing multiple gunshots at Shella Howard while she dressed in their bathroom on July 21, 2014. Their child, who was 6 at the time, was in the home. 

The date of the slaying is also the birthday of Shella Howard's mother, a fact Turner noted in his written reasons.

"I cringe at the thought of her having to endure the pain of having to live with this fact each and every July 21," Turner wrote.

Following the shooting, Jaris Howard took their child to a relative's home and told the relative that he had shot Shella Howard and she was dead. After he was picked up and being taken to jail, Howard also told deputies that he had killed his wife, prosecutors said.

Donaldsonville man booked in shooting death of wife

At the time of his arrest, sheriff's deputies noted that Howard had a lengthy criminal history.

In the written reasons, Turner noted that Howard is a multiple felony offender who had "woefully failed to change your course of action in life despite" spiritual guidance from his pastor.

In November, voters ended Louisiana's non-unanimous jury law that had allowed split verdicts like Howard's, but the change to the state constitution only applies to cases that happen on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

Though the law approved by Louisiana voters isn't retroactive, an appeal of another split verdict in New Orleans is already before the U.S. Supreme Court. Legal experts have said the court could also undo split-jury verdicts from older cases that predate the new law and also haven't fully run the course of their appeals.

During Jaris Howard's sentencing Tuesday in Gonzales, Howard's defense attorneys informed the court an appeal is planned.

Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.