Idaho's highest court has ruled that Dale C. Shackelford will continue to serve two consecutive life sentences for the murders of his ex-wife and her boyfriend.

The Idaho Supreme Court denied Shackelford's two petitions for post-conviction relief in an opinion filed late last week. Shackelford, 54, filed petitions in regard to a resentencing hearing in 2011 and his initial criminal trial in an attempt to reduce his sentence.

Shackelford was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree arson in December 2000 for the May 1999 deaths of Donna Fontaine, his ex-wife, and Fred Palahniuk, her boyfriend. Both were shot, and their charred bodies were found in a burned-out garage near Kendrick.

Shackelford was initially sentenced to death, but the sentence was later overturned. He was resentenced in June 2011 to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Shackelford argued in a petition he filed after resentencing that he should not be sentenced to fixed life sentences because a jury found no aggravating factors, according to the Supreme Court's opinion. But according to Idaho Code, the statutory punishment for murder is life in prison with a minimum of 10 years confinement.

"Shackelford does not explain how a term of fixed life imposed by a judge violates the statutory minimum," Chief Justice Jim Jones wrote in the opinion. " ... On its face, the statute imposes no maximum term of fixed imprisonment. A sentence of fixed life, therefore, does not exceed statutory sentencing limits."

The court additionally ruled that none of Shackelford's claims in his second petition "could succeed as a matter of law," according to the opinion. Those claims include violations of his right to due process and allegations that prosecutors suppressed evidence that would have been favorable to him.

Shackelford argued that a radiologist conducted an X-ray of Fontaine's body in 1999, but that the results were not made available until 2004. The radiologist reportedly found the bullet that killed Fontaine appeared to be sheared off, suggesting it ricocheted before striking her. Shackelford therefore argued the murder could not have been premeditated.

The Latah County 2nd District Court dismissed the claim, based on both its merits and the fact Shackelford failed to present it in earlier appeals. Because he failed to challenge the District Court's ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed it as well, according to the opinion.

Shackelford is imprisoned at the Idaho State Correctional Center in Boise.


Embree may be contacted at or (208) 669-1298. Follow her on Twitter @chelseaembree.