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Fuel Fitness shooter sentenced to 170 years

Daily Inter Lake | November 30, 2023 2:00 PM

Judge Dan Wilson sentenced the gunman in the fatal 2021 Fuel Fitness shooting in Kalispell to a combined 170 years in Montana State Prison on Thursday. 

“... This act was one that was all but premeditated,” Wilson said as he handed down the sentences to Jonathan Douglas Shaw, 37, on Nov. 30 in Flathead County District Court. “It was the act of a person who was determined to somehow make his mark in this world by conflating the smallest or tiniest of social insults into a false sense of victimhood, a false sense of threat from the outside world and to vindicate his desire to exert deadly force against someone who … truly did not merit or deserve it under any circumstance.”

A jury found Shaw, a Kalispell resident, guilty of felony deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide, both with weapons enhancements, following a four-day trial in July. For deliberate homicide, Wilson handed down a 110-year sentence. He gave Shaw another 60 years for attempted deliberate homicide. 

Wilson ordered the sentences to run consecutively and restricted his parole for 55 years, describing Shaw as a “threat and danger” to society. 

Shaw was living in a trailer he had outfitted to serve as a home in the U.S. 2 parking lot of Fuel Fitness in late summer 2021 when the gym manager Matthew Hurley and another employee, Matthew Underhill, directed him to leave. Shaw exited his truck and followed the pair as they headed back inside the fitness center before drawing a gun and shooting Hurley four times, according to court documents and witness testimony.  

Authorities took Shaw into custody after he suffered wounds in a subsequent gun battle with gym patron William Keck, who confronted him following the shooting. 

Shaw claimed during the trial that he acted in self-defense, testifying that he believed Hurley was reaching for a gun in his clothing during their conversation. Hurley was unarmed when he died, according to court documents and witness testimony.

Wilson said he listened to Shaw’s testimony and found it lacking, describing it as a fabrication generated by an “overweening ego” that prompted him to kill over a perceived slight. 

“The court finds … that Mr. Shaw killed and murdered Matthew Hurley in the most irrational, irreverent and cold-blooded manner that a human being possible could be motivated by to commit such a heinous act,” Wilson said.  

Deputy County Attorney John Donovan, who prosecuted the case alongside Deputy County Attorney Ashley Frechette, had recommended Shaw receive a pair of 110-year sentences to Montana State Prison for a net of 220 years behind bars. 

“It was a senseless act,” Donovan said. “It was an act where Matthew Hurley, wearing a Fuel Fitness shirt, doing his job, was taken by [Shaw], who was bent on inflicting harm.”

Defense attorney Colin Stephens asked for two 60-year sentences to run concurrently and for the 37-year-old to become eligible for parole after 18 years, citing Shaw’s lack of criminal history. 

“Mr. Shaw adamantly believes he did not act out of money or anger; he legitimately and truly believed he needed to act that day out of self defense. It is not an excuse. He is not trying to blame others,” Stephens said. “He went 35 years without any criminal incident until this occurred. … That day in September was a confluence of events that everyone, including Mr. Shaw, wishes he could take back.”

MATTHEW HURLEY’S friends and family took turns at the witness stand remembering him as a kind, loving person and calling for Shaw to receive the maximum penalty under law for the 27-year-old’s killing. 

“Why should he get to live free when my son does not,” asked David Hurley, who indicated he preferred the death penalty be imposed on Shaw.

He described every day since his son’s killing as a struggle with exhaustion and frustration, saying he had been beset by health problems and sleeplessness. 

“I fight through these issues every day and move forward. I’m not going to let that coward do what he did to my son dictate my life,” David Hurley said. “What hurts the most is to see the impact that this tragedy has had on others.”

It was heartbreaking to see his 11-year-old granddaughter no longer want to celebrate her birthday “since her favorite uncle wasn’t going to be able to join her,” he said, racked by sobs.

“This was no accident. What he did was just cold-blooded murder. He had no other intention other than to shoot Matt when he got out of that truck,” David Hurley said. ”He could have chosen fists, he could have chosen verbal abuse, anything, but he did not.”

Jennifer Hurley, Matthew Hurley’s mother, said his murder left her family shattered. 

“All through these proceedings we’ve heard about the defendant’s rights. What about Matt’s rights?” Jennifer Hurley said. “He had rights. He had a right to continue his life, to work, to play, to have a family and all of that was taken away by a senseless action by the defendant.”

Matthew Hurley’s sister, Alexandria Jessop, recalled explaining to her children why they would no longer be able to see their uncle. Remembering their reaction still shakes her, she testified. 

“Those sounds, I still have nightmares from them, their screams because they don’t understand why somebody would do that,” Jessop said. “They can’t even walk in a parking lot without asking, ‘Mom, is someone going to jump out of a vehicle and shoot us?’” 

Underhill, who also testified during Shaw’s murder trial, said the shooting changed his perspective on life. You never know when it is going to end, he said, or when someone might take it from you. 

“That always puts you on edge,” Underhill said. “You just never know.”

Matthew Hurley’s fiance, Jillian Keith, said she had contemplated suicide several times in the intervening years. 

“Have you ever sat at the bottom of your tub debating that if you try and drown yourself maybe you’ll be able to see your best friend again?” she asked during her testimony. 

On the morning of Sept. 16, she woke up next to Matthew Hurley “grateful knowing I had him for the rest of my life,” Keith said. A few hours later, she would be surrounding herself with his laundry, desperately trying to remain close to him, Keith recalled. 

“That morning I had everything: a man who loved me, a man I soon hoped to have children with and spend the rest of my life with,” she said. “In the blink of an eye it was all gone.”

She described Matthew Hurley as funny and fun-loving, a “salt of the earth” type who always sought to make her laugh and found the good in everybody. Since his slaying, she has come to know loneliness, Keith said. 

“Jonathan Shaw destroyed my life with zero regard to the precious life he took from this earth,” she said. “I’ve never known love like I did with Matthew Hurley.”

News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or