Camano murder trial opens in Coupeville, may last until Dec. 4

The trial of a 57-year-old Camano Island woman accused of shooting her elderly housemate to death in 1997 started this week in Island County Superior Court.

Linda Miley is facing charges of first-degree murder with a deadly weapons enhancement, an “alternative count” of second-degree felony murder, and first-degree theft.

It’s been a long, complicated and emotionally-charged case so far.

Miley is accused of shooting Jack Pearson five times and hitting him in the head with a blunt object at a Camano Island home they shared, then stealing $19,500 in cash from his safe on Dec. 19, 1997, according to court documents.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, Miley originally claimed that a masked man broke into the house and killed Pearson. She later told detectives that she killed him because “she was afraid he was going to rape her,” Detective Robert Clark wrote.

The case is likely to involve complicated psychological issues with mental health experts as witnesses. Miley’s attorney, Coupeville lawyer Tom Pacher, and Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks argued at length about access to Miley’s mental health records during a hearing last month.

Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock imposed $50,000 bail on Miley in September. Prosecutor Banks requested that Miley be taken into custody after she attempted suicide in a Coupeville motel room before an Aug. 24 court hearing. Banks argued that the attempt showed that she is a flight risk.

During pre-trial hearings Tuesday, Banks received permission from Judge Hancock to amend the charges against Miley to include the lesser charge of second-degree felony murder, which is defined as a homicide that occurs during the course of another felony.

According to Banks, the alternative murder charge will give the jury an alternative way to evaluate the evidence. In other words, the jury can find her guilty of the lesser charge if they don’t feel the alleged crimes warrants a first-degree murder conviction.

The trial is expected to last through Dec. 4.

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