Skylar Nemetz and Danielle Rippeon met on Oct. 4, 2012, in Northern California at a high school football game where Danielle was cheering. When they met, there was instant chemistry.
"I remember I fell in love with her like that. I was head over heels like immediately," Skylar said.
Credit: John Allenegui
The Flying Star
Danielle Rippeon was an adored high school student with a passion for cheerleading. She was the "flyer" on her varsity high school cheerleading squad. Danielle's coach, Erin Mikolai said, "You couldn't help but smile watching her. The center of attention was where she belonged for sure."
Right after they met, Danielle Rippeon began seriously dating Skylar Nemetz, a recent high school graduate who joined the Army and was leaving soon to begin his basic military training in Georgia. Just three months later, during his Christmas break, Skylar bought Danielle a diamond ring and proposed to her on the top of Kneeland Mountain.
March 7, 2013: On the same day Skylar Nemetz graduated from boot camp in Georgia, the young couple went to the courthouse and were officially married. They settled into off-base housing in Lakewood, Washington, near Fort Lewis where Skylar was stationed.
The couple went shooting together often, which Skylar Nemetz says was something Danielle especially enjoyed because it meant spending time with Skylar when he wasn't away for weeks on military training missions. Skylar even built Danielle a custom AR-15 for her 19th birthday in her favorite color: blue.
Skylar Nemetz grew up around guns and fired his first rifle when he was just a kid. A collector and builder of weapons, Skylar kept over a dozen guns in the apartment he shared with his wife, Danielle.
On Sept. 27, 2014, the infantry soldier left on another mission in Eastern Washington for three weeks of battlefield training. Skylar Nemetz lived in a Stryker vehicle shown here with three guys. Toward the end, he said he couldn't wait to get home to Danielle.
While Skylar Nemetz was away, he texted Danielle asking her to buy him a bottle of Sailor Jerry's and a bottle of Fireball so that Skylar, who was underage, could enjoy them when he got home. These bottles became two pieces of evidence that prosecutor Gregory Greer called, "The most significant aspect of this case."
Oct. 16, 2014: On the day Skylar Nemetz was returning home, Danielle video chatted with her best friend, Michayla Yingling, that morning saying that she couldn't wait for him to get back. Later that night, with Skylar home, Danielle video chatted with Michayla again.
"She was sitting at her computer desk. Skylar was in the background on the couch," Yingling said. "And then she ran over to him and jumped on his lap and was acting all happy that he was home."
Danielle Nemetz and Michayla Yingling hung up and 12 minutes later Danielle was dead -- she was shot through the head as she sat looking at her computer screen. Neighbors across the hall called 911 to report hearing a gun shot.
Police grilled Skylar Nemetz for hours, asking how a highly-trained soldier could accidentally shoot his wife and then neglect to render aid right after. They also questioned why he proceeded to get rid of the alcohol bottles Danielle bought for him instead of calling 911.
When Skylar's mom, Danette Heller, found out that he had been arrested, she immediately uprooted her life and moved to Tacoma to be with Skylar. She spent all of her money and borrowed even more to pay for a top-notch defense lawyer. Danette got Skylar out on bail and under house arrest until his trial.