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MailTribune.com
  • Shady Cove killer gets 6 years, fine

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  • After a four-day bench trial, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Harris found Robert Mark Liles guilty of second-degree manslaughter for shooting Charles Earl May during a drunken blackout two years ago.
    Not only will the 60-year-old Shady Cove logger spend the next six years in prison for killing May, but Harris also fined Liles &
    36;100,000, which will go into a trust fund for May's 8-year-old son.
    Harris said Liles was aware that his drinking could lead to violence.
    He knew he experienced blackouts when he drank to excess and would do dangerous and reckless things, Harris said at the court hearing Wednesday. (Six months before the shooting, Liles) confesses, 'If I don't stop drinking I'm going to kill someone.'
    And on Nov. 13, 2000, he did. Liles shot May ' the 28-year-old son of his best friend ' twice. First in the neck, then, as May lay on his stomach dying, Liles shot him again at point blank range in the back.
    Liles had a .19 blood alcohol level at the time.
    Liles, the owner of Robert Liles Logging, started drinking at 14 and began drinking heavily after he turned 21. His family described him as a happy drunk.
    Although the Mays lived in Crescent City, Calif., and the Liles in Shady Cove, the families were very close. Liles thought of May as a son.
    But Deputy District Attorney John Bondurant theorized that Liles' temper was set off when he fell on a trailer hitch and May didn't catch him.
    Liles said he can't remember what happened.
    I woke up in jail and had no idea what took place, Liles said Wednesday.
    He told May's family he was broken-hearted too.
    God knows my heart, Liles said. I've never done anything like this. I don't know what happened. I'm just very sorry. It's destroyed two families.
    There's nothing I can do except say I'm sorry ' that's not enough, I know.
    At the hearing, Charles May III, May's father, said his family and friends were completely devastated by May's death and no sentence was enough.
    His family, I feel sorry for them, he said. I feel sorry for anyone who has had contact with this man.
    May's little sister said that instead of taking friends to the opening day of duck hunting season, he always took her.
    Charlie was the type of guy who made me want to be a better person, Megan May said.
    Family members talked about how May was loved by everyone he knew. They also talked about how much May's son missed his dad.
    During the trial, Liles faced charges of murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. Liles' attorneys Carl Caplan and Jeni Feinberg had argued that Liles suffered from a brain defect that was worsened by his drinking. They said he should be found guilty, but insane.
    But Harris said the evidence showed no atrophying of Liles brain due to his lifetime of drinking and only sketchy evidence of a head trauma.
    There is no evidence he was mentally impaired when he wasn't drinking, Harris pointed out.
    Harris declined to convict Liles on the more serious charges with stiffer mandatory sentences because Liles was too drunk to form an intent to murder, and since he hadn't had trouble with drinking and using guns before, the crime was hard to predict.
    Bondurant said although he wanted a murder or first-degree manslaughter conviction, he was pleased with the verdict.
    I'm glad he was convicted and not found to be crazy because he wasn't, Bondurant said. He was just drunk.
    Liles only previous convictions had been one drunken driving arrest in 1995 and some traffic infractions.
    Reach reporter Dani Dodge at 776-4471, or e-mail

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