Modesto man who said his wife asked to be shot receives maximum sentence for 2016 murder

A Modesto man received the maximum sentence this month after a jury found him guilty of murdering his wife in 2016.

Steven Floyd Oliver, 68, shot Sylvia Oliver, 61, in the head with a rifle on the evening of Nov. 17, 2016, according to a news release from the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.

Modesto police were dispatched to the couple’s home on Edison Avenue, several blocks west of Downey High School, after Steven Oliver’s daughter called 911.

“Oliver called his daughter on the telephone sounding so incoherent and intoxicated that she could barely understand him,” according to the release.

She requested officers do a welfare check at their home and told police her father and stepmother had a history of arguing.

Officers testified that Steven Oliver smelled of alcohol and appeared intoxicated.

When officers asked him if he and his wife had been arguing, Oliver told them, “I was trying to go to sleep. My wife woke me up and said, ‘Shoot me,’ and I did. She’s laying on the floor,” according to the release.

Police found Sylvia lying dead on the kitchen floor with her feet pressed up against the cabinets.

Oliver was arrested and taken to the Police Department for questioning. During the interview, Oliver repeatedly changed his story, according to the release.

He said he didn’t know the rifle was loaded when he pulled the trigger. He said he fired a warning shot to the side of Sylvia’s head but didn’t realize there was a second round in the chamber. Finally, he said Sylvia shot herself with the rifle.

Steven Oliver told detectives that after the shooting, he went outside to finish his drink and smoke a cigarette, according to the release. He went back inside, checked Sylvia’s pulse and, finding none, called his daughter.

In March, after four days of testimony, a Stanislaus County Superior Court jury found Oliver guilty of second-degree murder and found true an enhancement that he personally and intentionally discharged a firearm.

On May 9, Judge Carrie M. Stephens sentenced Oliver to serve 15 years to life in state prison for the murder and 25 years to life for the enhancement. She ordered that the sentences run consecutively, for a total term of 40 years to life in state prison, the maximum allowed by law, according to the release.