County DA won't file charges on Modesto woman who shot husband

Official: Self-defense claim trumps evidence

etracy@modbee.comAugust 22, 2013 

Walter Hinton and daughter Leilani Hinton are pictured in 2009 in Sonoma.


    Erin Tracy
    Title: Breaking news reporter
    Coverage areas: Breaking news, crime
    Bio: Erin Tracy started working for The Bee in September 2010. She has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University and previously worked at the Daily Democrat in Woodland and the Times-Standard in Eureka.
    Recent stories written by Erin
    On Twitter: @ModestoBeeCrime

— After receiving evidence recently from Modesto police, the Stanislaus County district attorney's office declined to file charges against a woman who shot her husband to death late last year.

Claire Kelley-Hinton, 32, shot Walter Hinton, 64, in the chest Nov. 30 inside their west Modesto home. Kelley-Hinton told police she and Hinton were arguing when he grabbed her by the neck.

"During the incident, Kelley retrieved a handgun and shot her husband in the chest," reads a warrant to search their home on Boone Way.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Alan Cassidy reviewed the case and said this week that "given the current state of the evidence, we do not believe we could overcome the claim of self-defense that the suspect raised."

He declined to elaborate but said the case could be re-examined if additional evidence becomes available. Modesto police detectives also would not comment on details of the case, and neither police nor the district attorney's office has provided an explanation to the family.

Hinton's daughter from a previous marriage, Leilani Hinton, was indignant when detectives told her earlier this month that the district attorney likely would not file charges on the case. She said she expected charges and the arrest of Kelley-Hinton, but was told by the police to be patient.

Attempts to reach Kelley-Hinton this week were not successful. Since the shooting, she has moved from the home on Boone Way. She declined an interview shortly after the shooting.

"He was a good dad; any time I ever needed anything, he was there," Leilani Hinton said. "His kids with (Claire), he loved those kids probably more than life itself. They must miss him a lot because he sure loved them."

Claire and Walter Hinton's five children were placed in foster care after the shooting. Neither police nor the district attorney's office would say if they have been returned to their mother.

Leilani Hinton described her father as a hard worker who was eager to please and always had a smile on his face. She said she never saw him behave violently and he was always the first person to try to talk through disagreements.

Walter Hinton was a military police veteran and retired from Lockheed Martin, which required a clean record for security clearance. A public records search from his prior cities of residence in California and Virginia turned up no criminal history.

Two neighbors interviewed shortly after the shooting told detectives they heard nothing prior to the shooting and "never heard any arguing or any incident of domestic violence between Walter Hinton and his wife," according to the search warrant.

Leilani Hinton said she wants answers from police and the district attorney's office, but mostly she wants answers from Kelley-Hinton.

She's concerned that the outward appearance of her father and Kelley-Hinton's relationship is influencing the case.

Half his age, Kelley-Hinton was the adopted daughter of Walter Hinton's fifth wife. Walter Hinton left Claire's mother and married her when she was a young adult. In seven years, they had five children, bringing to nine the number of children Walter Hinton had.

But his history with marriage, Leilani said, should be a testament to his willingness to let go. If Kelley-Hinton had wanted, she could have left, Leilani Hinton believes.

"She could have ran out the door. She could have called the cops and said, 'My husband is trying to kill me.' She could have asked for a divorce," she said. "Her story doesn't hold water."

Walter Hinton's 83-year-old mother, Lula Hinton, is still trying to come to terms with the loss of her child. "Sometimes society or the laws of the land are not always fair, but God's law is always fair," she said. "I wish that she had walked out without killing him; I don't hate her, but I hate what she did with my son."

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.

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