By Brian Kelly
COUPEVILLE — Linda Miley was found guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter Friday afternoon in the 1997 shooting death of her boyfriend, Jack J. Pearson.
Pearson, 68, was shot five times with a .38-caliber pistol in the early morning hours of Dec. 19, 1997. Miley, his girlfriend of six years, told neighbors that she had seen him struggling with a masked man in the kitchen of their Camano Island home.
Miley later changed her story and told detectives she shot Pearson in self-defense.
"There is nothing to be happy about in this case," said Island County prosecutor Greg Banks. "Mr. Pearson is dead, and Linda Miley had, by all accounts, never done anything wrong before.
"There’s no happy ending here, but justice has been done," he said.
Banks originally charged Miley with second-degree murder, but ramped up the charge to first-degree murder before the trial began. Island County’s previous prosecutor had decided against bringing the case to trial.
Sentencing will happen sometime within the next 40 days. Miley, 58, faces between 15 and 23 years in prison.
Banks said the self-defense argument fell apart after experts were able to prove that Pearson was on the floor behind a barstool when one of the bullets hit him. In closing arguments, Banks lay on the floor behind the bullet-damaged barstool and used a dowel to show jurors the path that one of the bullets had taken.
The defense highlighted Miley’s past in Mississippi, saying she had endured an abusive childhood and marriage. She also suffered from a dissociative disorder and was not capable of forming the mental intent to kill, attorney Tom Pacher told jurors.
But after three days of deliberations, the jury found Miley guilty of the alternative count of felony murder in the second degree.
Felony murder is when a person is killed during the commission of a felony. In this case, Banks said, it was second-degree assault with a deadly weapon. That gave the jury the chance to find Miley guilty of murder even if her intent was only to hurt her boyfriend.
Miley was also charged with first-degree theft because she allegedly took $19,500 in $100 bills from Pearson’s safe after she shot him. The jury found her innocent on that charge.
The length of deliberations was surprising to some.
"These jurors were really thorough," Banks said. "They told us that they didn’t take a vote or even start to argue until they organized and systematically went through the documents."
There were more than a hundred documents, and one juror read each document aloud to the other jurors.
"We were worried, too, after a time," Banks said. "It turns out they were doing exactly what they were supposed to do."
You can call Herald Writer Brian Kelly at 425-339-3422 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.