Ryan Carter Poston was at home in Highland Heights, Ky., getting ready to go out for drinks with the reigning Miss Ohio, Audrey Bolte, on Oct. 12, 2012.
When the 29-year-old lawyer failed to show up for what was supposed to be their first date after months of online chatting and texting, Audrey eventually just went home and never heard from him again.
It turned out that Ryan was dead, shot six times by his on-and-off girlfriend of 18 months, Shayna Hubers.
"Ryan was as bright as he was kind and as principled as he was caring," read a statement released by his family the next day. "His passing is an unspeakable hardship to so many people. We ask that all of Ryan's family and friends as well as our community to keep Ryan and those who loved him in their thoughts and prayers. We want to make it clear that Ryan was trying to end this relationship; he was trying to move on with his life. Tragically, his life was taken from him. Justice must now be served."
In this case, there was no question of who had pulled the trigger.
Shayna was the one who called 911 to report a shooting, and she was still at Ryan's apartment when police arrived. After just a few hours in custody, the 21-year-old was charged with murder.
"I knew he was gonna die or have a completely deformed face," she said that night, per video from the police interrogation room. "He's very vain. One of our last conversations we had that was good was that he wants to get a nose job. And I shot him right here. I gave him his nose job he wanted."
Shayna was recorded saying a lot of things in that room, including unprompted comments such as, "I don't know if anyone will ever want to marry me if they know that I killed a boyfriend in self-defense—not funny." She also sang "Amazing Grace," and at one point danced around the room, singing and snapping her fingers, "I did it! Yes, I did it!"
And so the question of why became the real mystery.
A Rough Relationship
Ryan met Shayna through Facebook in March 2011, compelled to send a friend request after admiring a photo of the then-19-year-old in a bikini taken during spring break in Daytona Beach, Fla., according to court testimony from her July 2015 sentencing hearing. They met in person and started dating, photos they shared on social media showing your average young couple.
"I would say I was a very fun college kid," Shayna, who graduated from University of Kentucky with her bachelor's degree in the spring of 2012, later told WCOP 9 News in a jailhouse interview.
According to Ryan's friends and family from their trial testimony and media interviews, he was on the rebound after the end of a long relationship with Lauren Worley, and he started to lose interest in Shayna fairly early on but never fully broke it off.
"He just wasn't able to," his friend Tom Awadalla said on ABC News' 20/20 in 2015. "He was too nice, didn't want to hurt her feelings."
But Shayna, a graduate student at Eastern Kentucky University who wanted to be a guidance counselor, insisted that being "too nice" wasn't Ryan's problem. She alleged that he was a controlling, abusive boyfriend who kept loaded guns in the house.
Ryan's neighbor Nikki Carnes told 48 Hours that from, what she heard from Shayna, she believed that Ryan was "playing mind games" with his girlfriend.
"She would always tell me that he would say she needed a boob job or a face lift and that she was fat, she needed to lose some weight," Nikki said. But "she always told me she loved him. She picked up his laundry, she did his laundry, she took his dog out, she went and bought him food. She did everything for him."
Sharon Hubers, Shayna's mother, told CBS News, "She's far from evil. Shayna has a heart of gold. She's like her mommy...a loving spirit. That's what I want the world to know."
People close to Ryan maintained that Shayna was the one who had issues, his ex-girlfriend Lauren Worley telling 20/20, "She used to go places asking everyone if they knew me and if they thought I was prettier than her. It was like she had an obsession, beyond Ryan."
Lauren and Ryan had previously lived together and, she said, "we broke up always thinking—in the back of my mind, at least—that we would end up back together." She still had the two dogs they acquired as a couple, Lily and Max.
Ryan's friend Allie Wagner told 48 Hours of Shayna, "I think she had a goal, in the beginning, to make him settle down with her. And when she wasn't becoming successful, that became a problem." Allie read a Facebook message Ryan sent her: "Literally probably the craziest f-king person I have ever met. She almost scares me."
Ryan also texted a cousin, "This is getting to be restraining order level crazy...She's shown up at my condo like 3 times and refuses to leave each time."
Meanwhile, Shayna was chronicling her own spiraling feelings in texts to friends.
"He says he is only with me bc I make him feel so awful when I cry," Shayna wrote to one, per messages reported on by 20/20. "My love has turned to hate."
To another pal she wrote a few weeks before Ryan's death, per 20/20, "When I go to the shooting range [with] ryan tonight I want to turn around and shoot and kill him and play like [it's] an accident."
Ryan had messaged Shayna back in February 2012, eight months before he was killed, "You can tell people you broke up with me," according to texts reported on by 48 Hours. She resisted, replying that she loved him, "Far more than you deserve."
In March, the report continued, he pleaded with her to "STOP texting me." Then in April, "I NO LONGER HAVE THE PATIENCE TO DEAL WITH YOU."
Campbell County Commonwealth's Attorney Michelle Snodgrass, who prosecuted the case, told 48 Hours that investigators found "hundreds of thousands of messages. And most of the messages were from Shayna. For every one message Ryan sent, she probably sent 50. She couldn't stop herself."
Friend and fellow attorney Ken Hawley remembered Shayna texting Ryan "50 to 100 times a day. She would just wear him down and exhaust him to the point where he would say, 'OK, Shayna.'...He kept doing the easy thing, which was staying with her."
Ryan's ex Lauren told 20/20, "I was right there. I wish I would have known or paid attention, because I might have been able to stop it." Multiple friends also told 48 Hours they wish they had more forcefully encouraged Ryan to end the relationship for good.
"I knew she was a stalker," Ken said. "I thought she was perfectly capable of causing a scene. But murder?"
Despite the heated messages, Ryan and Shayna were back together by the summer, yet on the outs again in late August, when Ryan texted her "I'm turning off the phone and padlocking the door." Discussing the import of these messages with Highland Heights Police Chief Bill Birkenhauer, 48 Hours' Peter Van Sant said that Shayna then sent Ryan at least 100 messages over the next nine hours until Ryan replied, "I'm not reading any of these. Stop."
Asked what that said about her behavior, Birkenhauer replied, "This message goes back to, she's obsessed with Ryan Poston."
But Shayna still had a key to Ryan's condo, and on the night of Oct. 11, the pair spent time at Shayna's mother and stepfather's house and then she slept at his place, according to her mom, Sharon Hubers.
"I don't know if it was part of Ryan's attempt to let her down easy. I just don't know," Sharon later testified when asked if that sounded like the behavior of someone about to break up with his girlfriend.
When she called 911 at around 9 p.m. on Oct. 12, Shayna told the operator, per the recording of the call, "I killed my boyfriend in self-defense." Probed for more details, she continued, "He beat me and tried to carry me out of the house and I came back in to get my things and he was right in front of me and he reached down and grabbed the gun, and I grabbed it out of his hand and pulled the trigger."
Asked how long ago that had happened, she said, "10, 15 minutes...not even that long."
Sharon Hubers later testified that Shayna actually called her first, sounding "hysterical, terrified, in shock." She said she told her daughter to call 911 and "tell them where you are and exactly what happened."
Police took Shayna into custody and after being read her rights she asked for a lawyer—but, as video of the exchange showed, she proceeded to talk anyway without being questioned. Several officers traded off sitting with her.
"If I had to go to jail, can you shower there? Or do you just get really dirty?" Shayna asked one cop.
At another point, she said, "He's pulled guns on me as jokes before...And I shot him in self-defense because he's done stuff before where I've hit my head on a headboard...and could've died!"
But later in her mostly one-sided conversation, she told an officer that Ryan had been yelling at her, calling her a "f--king hillbilly," and then she "just picked up the gun" that was sitting on his dining table. "And in the middle of him doin' somethin' with his arm or saying somethin' crazy, I shot him."
He was "twitching," she recalled, so "I shot him a couple of more times just to make sure he was dead 'cause I didn't wanna watch him die."
Shayna testified at a 2014 bail hearing that she stuck with Ryan because he "was going through a lot, and he needed moral support. And I was always good to him." She was upfront to the police about shooting him, she explained, because "I believed in my innocence. And I wanted to see my mother and go home."
She had been locked up since her arrest in October 2012, bail having initially been denied. It was set at $1.5 million after this hearing but Shayna's family was unable to come up with that amount and she remained in jail throughout the proceedings.
Her murder trial in Campbell County Circuit Court began in April 2015. Shayna pleaded not guilty by reason of self defense.
The prosecution argued that she was an obsessed stalker who was unable to accept that Ryan didn't want to see her anymore and shot him in cold blood, the date he was supposed to go on with a beauty queen that night the final straw.
Cecily Miller, one of Shayna's cellmates, testified that the accused had sounded pretty "carefree" when she talked about the shooting, and laughed when she recalled "giving him the nose job he always wanted."
Cecily also shared her memories of bunking with Shayna on Lifetime's Cellmate Secrets last year, as did fellow inmate Holly Nivens, who testified during the 2015 trial that Shayna told her that bruises she'd shown to Ryan's neighbor, Nikki Carnes, were actually self-inflicted.
"She would purposely, like, pull her arms up so the neighbors would see bruises on her arms," Holly said in court.
Holly said on Cellmate Secrets that Shayna took notes on the twists and turns in the Jodi Arias murder case, which was "a big thing" at the time. Jodi was accused of killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008 and, after initially making up wildly opposing stories, claimed self-defense, saying Travis had been abusive. She's serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.
"She was so wrapped up in her case," Holly said of Shayna, "comparing herself with Jodi Arias."
At trial the defense maintained that Shayna feared for her life, that Ryan was in a rage on Oct. 12, 2012, and pushing her around the room. And after she shot him once, she kept shooting out of fear he'd get up and kill her.
Shayna's friend Christina Keeling, a nurse, testified, "She's a very sweet, gentle, happy person. She's not this horrible person she's been portrayed as."
But after barely five hours of deliberation, a jury found Shayna guilty of murder on April 25, 2015. They recommended 40 years in prison—a sentence Ryan's ex Lauren found far too lenient.
"Maybe it's traditional, old-school mentality," she told 20/20, "but if you kill someone, then you know, it's eye for an eye. And what you do unto others should be done unto you." (Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.)
Ryan's mother, Lisa Carter, called the verdict a "shallow victory."
During her sentencing hearing, held in part to determine whether she was a victim of domestic violence and therefore could be eligible for parole after eight years, Shayna told the judge, "I feel like I was led on. I feel like I was manipulated, used and abused. And no, Ryan didn't beat on me every day...I'm not gonna sit up here and exaggerate and lie and say that he did. But he did put hands on me a handful of times."
Before she was sentenced, Shayna stated in court that she was "sorry to my family. And I'm sorry to my friends for letting them down. And I'm sorry for the money that my parents had to spend on attorneys." She didn't mention Ryan.
Judge Fred Stine gave her 40 years in prison, with the possibility of parole after 20, saying that Ryan's murder was "probably as cold-blooded an act as I've been associated within the criminal justice system in the 30-plus years I've been in it."
That wasn't the end of the story, though. In 2016 Shayna won a new trial on appeal when it turned out that there was a juror who failed to disclose a felony conviction, which in the state of Kentucky should have prevented the person from serving on the panel.
"If we have to do this a hundred times we will do it a hundred times," Jay Poston, Ryan's dad, told 48 Hours as the family steeled themselves to hear the dueling stories all over again. "It will all be OK. We believe strongly that the evidence is overwhelming and we believe justice will still be served."
Shayna Speaks Out
Breaking her silence to WCPO 9 News in May 2018, ahead of her second trial, Shayna said in a jailhouse interview (which she requested to discuss her intent to marry a fellow inmate; they did and have since divorced) that she felt she'd been "treated unfairly" by the Campbell County justice system and she didn't really think her next trial would be fair, either. "I feel like there was a biased opinion against me here," she said.
But "I was obviously very happy" to get a new trial, she told anchor Craig McKee. "It was something that was very special to me and for my life."
Asked if she agreed that media coverage of her case had "destroyed the presumption of innocence," as her attorney had alleged, Shayna said, "I believe that, and I do believe that there's been incredibly negative media coverage about me in Cincinnati, and in the United States, and internationally."
Some people could see her as "crying wolf," Shayna said in response to a question about whether the #MeToo movement, which had gained serious steam since her first trial, could possibly help her when it came to the public response to her story. "It could be negative, but it could also be positive because it's raising awareness [about abuse], that this happens all the time. It often happens in situations where no one would expect it to happen."
Asked if she felt regret or remorse particularly with regard to Ryan's family, she said, "I'm not here to talk about any of that."
McKee asked if Ryan's family had ever written to her, to which she replied, "Not that I'm aware of," nor had she ever written to any of them.
Shayna said she got a "fair amount" of mail from strangers expressing their support, generally more whenever her case was in the news, and "often times" she wrote back.
Asked for a second time if there was anything she regretted from 2012, she again said, "I'm not here to talk about 2012, I'm here to talk about today."
The Second Defense
When the retrial got underway in 2018, Shayna's new lawyer, David Eldridge, altered her defense "to focus more on the extreme emotional disturbance" she had suffered from Ryan's alleged physical and emotional abuse, Eldridge explained on a December 2020 episode of A&E's Killer Cases.
"Our position at trial was that [Ryan] was sending a lot of mixed signals as to what his desires were, in terms of a relationship with Shayna Hubers," the lawyer explained on the show. "She'd been invited to his parents' home, which she took as a signal that their relationship was going to move forward. That's obviously not what he had in mind."
Dr. Thomas Schacht, a psychologist, testified for the defense that Shayna suffered from borderline personality disorder and, at the time she shot Ryan, her "psychological condition was seriously abnormal."
Unlike during her first trial, Shayna took the stand this time. She testified that on the night she shot Ryan, she had been sitting on the floor in his condo and, when she tried to get up, he pushed her back down. "I was hysterically crying," she said, per video footage of the trial. "And I recall Ryan standing over me and grabbing the gun that was sitting on the table and pointing it at me and saying, 'I could just kill you right now and get away with it, nobody would even know.'"
"I was shocked," she continued, "I was afraid, I didn't understand what I had done to deserve any of this."
He put the gun back down on the table, Shayna testified, "still saying hurtful things, I don't remember exactly what, and he was standing up from the chair and he was reaching across the table, and I don't know if he was reaching for the gun or reaching for me. But I was still sitting on the floor at this point in time, and I got up off the floor and I grabbed the gun and I shot him."
But the prosecution stayed its course that Shayna had committed a cold-blooded, premeditated crime, and, once again, it took the jury less than five hours to convict Shayna of murder on Aug. 29, 2018, rejecting a lesser charge of manslaughter. (On Killer Cases, Commonwealth Attorney Michelle Snodgrass said Shayna effectively "played a part for the jurors, for the judge, for the TV cameras" with her testimony.)
Ryan's family said in a statement, "Today we embrace justice, and yet we do not feel joy. It has been six long and heartbreaking years without our beloved Ryan."
At the sentencing hearing, Snodgrass said in court that Shayna had sent the judge a letter of apology, but "she has never said that to Ryan's family. She has expressed no remorse."
Jay Poston, Ryan's father, said during the hearing that it was "daunting to know that I've got another 30 or 40 years on this earth, God willing, I'll have another 35 or 40 Christmases without my son. And my grandchildren were stolen from me, I will never hold my grandchildren. She has decimated my life and many other lives."
Sharon Hubers said on the stand that her child's life had "also been taken. Her family also grieves. I'm not lessening or taking away from, or trying to say that I don't understand the grief of this family, because I do. Both beautiful young people, both talented."
Shayna was sentenced to life in prison, with her first chance at parole due in 2032.
Shayna After Sentencing
Shayna appealed the second verdict as well, arguing that there were various problems with the proceedings, including allowing jurors who, the appeal alleged, were "biased"; the denial of her motions for a change of venue, which made it "reasonably likely" she wouldn't get a fair trial; and the admissibility of certain pieces of evidence and the exclusion of some others. The Kentucky Supreme Court denied her appeal in September 2020, finding no reversible error.
Now 30, she's serving her time at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women. Her profile on a site to get messages to prisoners who don't have access to email reads that she's "grown much since the 21 year old girl I was in October 2012 at the time of my arrest."
"No one really knows or can explain what I've been through besides me," the profile also reads. "It can be hard being judged by false conviction theories in the media used to obtain television ratings and a conviction and maximum penalty in court."
On Killer Cases in 2020, Ryan's friend Adam Bleile said there was "no satisfaction" to be gained from Shayna's life sentence. "You'd think there's some kind of relief for it, but there's no relief."
Back in 2018, when asked by WCPO's Craig McKee if she thought people could change, she replied, "Yeah, I do. But I don't—I think some people are misunderstood. I think some people are not bad and then they change. I think some people are doing things in their lives that are misunderstood, and they grow up."
"I think I've grown up a lot," she added. "I think I've been through a lot and I think I was this young girl then [in 2012], and I think I'm a woman now...I think I would handle things differently now." When McKee emphasized that she was making a "big statement" by saying she'd do things differently now than she did in 2012, without going into the particulars of her case, she agreed.
"I guess it is," Shayna said, "but I do believe that I've been through a lot in my life since then and I'm a lot more mature. I have more experience with people. I've had to live around people in a close, confined space for many years."