Camano woman guilty of second degree murder

A jury found Linda Miley guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter Friday in the 1997 shooting death of Camano Island resident Jack Pearson.

The jury, however, did not convict Miley of the more serious charge of first-degree murder or a first-degree theft charge after deliberating for three days.

The trial went on for about three weeks, beginning with pre-trial hearings Nov. 6. Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks called more than 20 witnesses, including the deputies who first responded to the scene, five forensic scientists, mental health experts and the detective who worked the case from the beginning.

Miley killed 67-year-old Pearson, her boyfriend, by hitting him on the head with a blunt object and then shooting him five times in the torso. According to Banks, Miley had been living with Pearson for six years. She felt secure in that she would go on living in his home and he would support her for the rest of her life. But on the night of the murder, he told her that their relationship was over and she would have to leave the house.

“She basically snapped,” Banks said.

Miley, however, took the stand in her defense and claimed that Pearson tried to rape her and that she acted in self defense.

Miley’s attorney, Tom Pacher of Coupeville, also tried to show that Miley had a mental disorder and did not have the capacity to form the intent necessary to commit premeditated murder. He put a doctor on the stand who testified Miley, who had been abused when she was a child and at the hands of her ex-husband, was suffering from a dissociative disorder at the time of the murder.

Banks said the diminished capacity defense “really puts the prosecution in a hard situation” because it is the state’s burden to prove that she did have the intent. He called his own experts to counter the defense psychiatrist.

Banks said he started looking into the case and re-investigating a couple of years ago after Pearson’s family and Island County Sheriff’s Detective Bob Clark urged him to do so. The former county prosecutor, Bill Hawkins, had decided not to charge Miley in the case.

The jury found Miley guilty of the “alternative” murder charge of “felony murder” in the second degree. Felony murder is a homicide where a person is killed during the commission of a felony. Banks said in this case the felony was second-degree assault with a deadly weapon. Banks explained that the charge allowed the jury to find she committed murder even if her intent was only to injury Pearson.

Miley was also charged with theft in the first degree because she allegedly took $19,500 in $100 bills from Pearson’s safe after she shot him. The jury found her not guilty of the theft.

Miley’s sentencing hearing will likely be in early January. She is facing from about 15 to 23 years in prison.

Banks said he will likely ask for a sentence at the high end of the range because of the brutal nature of the murder. He said both ballistics and Miley’s own testimony showed that there was a point during the shooting in which Pearson was on the ground and begged Miley not to shoot him, but she did anyway.

Banks said he was satisfied with the result. “There is nothing to be ‘happy’ about in this case,” he said. “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.”

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