An Arlington woman who shot and killed her husband and his 20-year-old daughter was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Friday.
Veronica Dunnachie, 36, was arrested in December 2014 in the deaths of Russ Dunnachie, 50, and Kimberly Dunnachie. They were found in Russ Dunnachie’s home in the 2500 block of Edinburgh Street in Arlington by patrol officers who were making a welfare check, according to court records.
Dunnachie, an open-carry advocate, pleaded guilty last week. Her attorney said Dunnachie’s easy access to firearms likely played a role in the fatal shootings.
One of Russ Dunnachie’s sisters, Heather, told her former sister-in-law that she had ripped away her family’s innocence.
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“He was a family man who gave that term a good meaning,” said Heather, who declined to give her last name. “He loved his family and friends with a humility that we all long for. If you’re asking, we lost a hero.”
Heather said Russ Dunnachie was a man of integrity, a soldier who lived to protect his country. Relatives cried in the gallery while their statement was read.
“We have so much anger and grief because of what has been taken away from us,” Heather said during her victim’s impact statement, given from the courtroom gallery. “For many of us sleep does not come easy anymore. None of us will ever be the same again.”
Mommy, what if I can’t forgive her? Do I have to forgive her?
Russ Dunnachie’s niece
Heather said that the family was glad the state did not seek the death penalty.
While the pain their family has endured has been unimaginable, Heather said they agreed that they wanted Veronica Dunnachie to find forgiveness and salvation through Christ.
Heather said family members continue to struggle.
“Family members have found it almost impossible to trust anyone again,” Heather said. “One sister did not want her child to walk one block away to a bus stop even in her quiet, fairly safe neighborhood. A niece, 9, asked how many bullets does it take to kill a person.
“Another child was unable to watch a Civil War documentary because it reminded him too much of what happened to his uncle,” Heather said. “Children have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and Russ’ mother said she wishes that she had been shot instead of her son.
“It’s hard to say whose pain is greater,” Heather said.
Divorce papers filed in October
Before her arrest, she was involved in area open-carry activities and had this quotation on her Facebook page: “Sometimes removing some people out of your life makes room for better people.” At the time of the murders, her profile photo showed her aiming a gun.
Veronica Dunnachie pleaded guilty on Feb. 5 to count one of her indictment, that she shot her husband and his adult stepdaughter to death. Days before the December 2014 murders, she had been to vacate the couple’s home before that month’s end, according to their divorce documents.
She and her husband had temporary restraining orders against each other that were issued in November, according to Tarrant County court documents.
Veronica Dunnachie filed for divorce Oct. 3, 2014, because of discord and conflict of personalities, documents state. Russ Dunnachie filed for divorce on Oct. 15, also citing discord and conflict of personalities.
They had been married since April 2006.
Court documents list four children in the family: boys ages 17, 8 and 6; and a girl, 3.
“Veronica Dunnachie hunted down two unarmed family members,” Tarrant County prosecutor Kelly Loftis said after the sentence was read in state District Judge Mollee Westfall’s court. “That heartless act has shattered the lives of all their relatives.”
Everyone has a breaking point
Terri Moore, Veronica Dunnachie’s attorney
‘Everyone has a breaking point’
Veronica Dunnachie’s attorney, Terri Moore, said she believed that her client’s ready access to firearms played a role in the shootings. Russ and Veronica Dunnachie were involved in the gun-rights movement and participated in demonstrations together, Moore said.
The pressures of their impending divorce and the prospect of losing the children also played a role in the shootings, Moore said she believes. She also said that given the circumstances, this was the best outcome her client could have hoped for.
An attorney could have presented her case to a jury and begged them to spare her life, and a jury might have done that, Moore said.
But why would anyone want to go through the time and expense of doing that, not to mention the additional trauma to the family that a trial might have caused, when the district attorney’s office was ready with that option before a trial was held, Moore said.
“Everyone has a breaking point,” Moore said. “It was just that things kept piling on.”
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.