Oso man gets 1 year of probation for killing abusive father

Prosecutors and defense agreed on zero days in jail, citing documented abuse Garner Melum suffered at his father’s hands.

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OSO — An Oso man will serve a year on probation, but no jail time, for shooting and killing his father during an argument in 2021, a Snohomish County judge ruled Wednesday.

Garner Melum, 21, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree manslaughter in the death of Nicholi Melum, 63. The defendant argued he was acting in self-defense from his father’s abuse. In the plea deal, prosecutors reduced the charge from second-degree murder.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Miguel Duran sentenced Garner Melum to 12 months of probation Wednesday. The defendant, wearing blue jeans and a red flannel shirt, pleaded with Duran to be “sympathetic.”

“I’m young, I have my whole life ahead of me,” he said. “I want to serve my country, I want to serve my God and I want to serve the people around me well. With you, anyone in this room — if y’all need help, I would do what I could.”

Garner Melum had no prior criminal history, meaning he faced 21 to 27 months under state guidelines. However, deputy prosecutor Elise Deschenes and defense attorney Peter Mazzone agreed on no jail time, citing the documented abuse from his father.

For years, Nicholi Melum verbally and physically abused both his son and wife, Mazzone wrote in court documents.

“Both mother and son lived in a prison setting with Nicholi as the warden controlling every move and punishing them all,” he wrote.

Deschenes did not agree the incident was a “complete defense,” but felt the agreed sentence was a fair resolution. A psychological evaluation found Garner Melum suffered from battered person syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his father’s abuse, Deschenes said.

“I think it’s important that he go out and deal with those issues for the community,” she said.

Mazzone said he and his client struggled to take the plea deal, as Garner Melum would potentially be giving up his dream of serving in the Army. The defense attorney said he was “pretty confident” they would have won a jury trial.

“I would not have pleaded to this, but sometimes being an advocate for your client involves avoiding the risk all together,” Mazzone said. “I could not see this boy — and that’s what he is, a boy — go to jail for even a minute.”

On Sept. 6, 2021, Nicholi Melum believed his son, then 19, did not appreciate him, and ordered him to leave the house in the 26700 block of Lake Riley Road, according to charging papers. Garner Melum went to his room, instead.

Around 9 p.m., Nicholi Melum banged on the bedroom door, the charges read. His wife heard another sharp noise. She ran up to find her husband bleeding, on his back, according to the police report.

The shooter’s mother called 911, and the defendant reported his father had broken down the door. In a calm voice, Garner Melum told the operator he shot his father with a “12 gauge birdshot,” charges say. The shotgun belonged to the family, but had reportedly always been kept in the young man’s room.

In the background of the call, the defendant’s mother could be heard yelling: “He threatened him!”

Investigators arrived on the scene to find Nicholi Melum deceased with a gunshot wound to the chest, the charges say. An ammunition pouch sat next to his body.

Garner Melum was booked into Snohomish County Jail, with bail initially set at $500,000, but later reduced to $5,000. He posted bail and was released in October 2021.

In court Wednesday, Duran told the defendant he has a “whole lifetime of potential” ahead of him.

“Even if your initial dream may not be one you can initially move forward with, my hope for you sir, is that you are able to find new dreams that truly move you … that you live a happy and fruitful long life here,” the judge said. “My best wishes to you, sir.”

Maya Tizon: 425-339-3434; maya.tizon@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @mayatizon.

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