Woman charged in 1997 slaying

By JIM HALEY

Herald Writer

COUPEVILLE — Three years ago today, Jack J. Pearson was gunned down in his Camano Island home during what his live-in girlfriend then described as a home-invasion robbery.

Now, Island County prosecutors have discounted that theory and believe there is enough evidence to convict the girlfriend of second-degree murder and first-degree theft.

The Superior Court charges accuse Linda H. Miley, 57, of Shoreline of repeatedly shooting Pearson with a .38-caliber pistol and taking $19,500 from the safe at Pearson’s grandiose Victorian-style home on Vesper Way.

Pearson, 68, died of multiple gunshot wounds about 4:30 a.m. Dec. 19, 1997. Island County sheriff’s detectives took days to get information out of Miley, who then appeared to be traumatized and in shock.

But a month later, sheriff’s officials said they had debunked the home-invasion theory, and Pearson’s death came as a result of a domestic dispute with his housemate.

Deputies also reassured Camano residents in a public meeting that it was not a random act of violence, and they need not fear something similar happening to them.

The case has been the subject of an ongoing investigation by the sheriff’s office, and investigators immediately found evidence that was inconsistent with the Miley story, county Prosecuting Attorney Gregory Banks said in a recent news release.

Banks, who has been in office two years, said Monday that his predecessor, William Hawkins, had considered the case "essentially closed. We had to take a close look at the case. I obviously have a different opinion as to whether the case is prosecutable. We don’t file cases we don’t think we can prove, either."

It’s good that authorities finally filed charges in his father’s death, said Chuck Pearson of Arlington, the eldest of eight Pearson children.

Pearson said he doesn’t think this was a premeditated shooting. "Nothing can bring dad back, but at the same time I’m relieved that someone can’t do this and get off scot-free."

Miley was arrested Friday and was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, Banks said. He believes she will be arraigned Dec. 29. She was being held in the Island County Jail.

According to court papers, Miley at first told investigators about a masked bandit who forced his way into the house. When evidence didn’t match her story, she later told sheriff’s detective Robert Clark she killed Pearson while defending herself from him during an argument.

In charging papers, Clark wrote: "The defendant’s story regarding the need for self-defense was inconsistent with the physical evidence at the scene."

Clark accused Miley of staging evidence and taking the $19,500 from the safe and hiding it in a makeup box in a bedroom closet.

Then she ran hysterically to neighbors seeking help, documents alleged.

Second-degree murder is intentional killing. It differs from first-degree murder in that it is not premeditated, Banks said. If convicted, Miley could face about 15 to 23 years in prison under state sentencing guidelines, he said.

Originally from Mississippi, Miley lived with Pearson for about five years before the shooting.

Pearson, who founded J.J. Pearson Construction, ran a successful business that concentrated on public works contracts. He retired in his early 50s.

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