Justin Link, 31, was a teenager in 2001 when he and four friends in Central Oregon killed Barbara Thomas, 52, of Redmond. The cruelty of the case attracted national attention, particularly because one of the attackers was her son.
Though prosecutors called Link the mastermind, the Oregon Supreme Court in 2009 tossed three of his five aggravated murder convictions because he was not the one who physically killed Thomas. In December, the high court said the reduced set of charges entitled him to a resentencing.
Link has been serving a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. Link’s appeal states that in a resentencing hearing, the defense would cite a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined mandatory true life sentences for juvenile defendants are cruel and unusual.
The Bend Bulletin and KTVZ report that Link has been returned to the Deschutes County Jail and will be in a Bend courtroom Tuesday.
The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case.
Mike Dugan, who was Deschutes County district attorney from 1987 to 2010, said Link’s “best-case scenario” is the possibility of parole after 30 years.
Two other teens, Seth Koch and Adam Thomas, also were sentenced to life without parole. Koch fired the fatal shot from a rifle stolen from Thomas’ father.
Two girls who accompanied the boys, Lucretia Karle and Ashley Summers, were sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The group had stolen a Cadillac from Koch’s mother and driven to the Thomas home, where they lost the keys and ransacked the house looking for them while they looted it. The teens then hatched a plot to kill Barbara Thomas to cover up their other crimes, steal her car and drive to Canada.
The plans included various ways to kill Barbara Thomas, including beating her to death with empty wine bottles, injecting her with bleach, setting the house on fire with her inside and electrocuting her in a bathtub.
“They put an electric fan in the bathtub with a bunch of wires to electrocute her. That didn’t seem to work too well,” Dugan said. “They proceeded to pummel her about the head with wine bottles. They got a gun and eventually shot her at point-blank range.”
Link was standing outside when the murder took place, talking to those inside by phone.
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