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Jaris Howard

GONZALES — A Donaldsonville man faces up to 40 years in state prison after Ascension Parish jurors convicted him in the fatal shooting of his wife nearly five years ago, prosecutors said Thursday.

Jaris Howard, 36, shot Shella "Shay" Thomas Howard, then 27, multiple times while she was getting dressed in their bathroom on July 21, 2014, prosecutors with the 23rd Judicial District said in a statement. 

The couple's then-6-year-old daughter was in Howards' home at 1103 Maginnis St. at the time of the shooting. After the slaying, Jaris Howard took the child to a relative's home and then told family members that he had shot his wife, prosecutors said. 

Sheriff's deputies later found Howard at his mother's home, and he told deputies he had killed his wife while he was on his way to Ascension Parish Prison, which is outside Donaldsonville. 

Shay Howard was pronounced dead at the scene.

Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Dupaty tried Jaris Howard on a second-degree murder charge but jurors came back with the responsive verdict of manslaughter, a reduced charge, early Wednesday morning less than an hour after midnight.

Court minutes show jurors, during their deliberations, had asked Judge Alvin Turner Jr. and prosecution and defense attorneys twice for the definition of manslaughter, as well as once each for the definitions of not guilty by self-defense and negligent homicide, another lesser charge. 

Under Louisiana law, manslaughter is a slaying in so-called "hot blood" or sudden passion that, for the moment, deprives someone from self-control. Having been found guilty of manslaughter, Howard avoided the mandatory life sentence that a second-degree murder conviction would have brought.

Howard testified on his own behalf, but it's not clear what his defense was. Prosecutors and his defense attorney, Martin Regan Jr., weren't immediately available for comment Thursday afternoon.

Judge Turner deferred sentencing until after a pre-sentence investigation.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.