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MailTribune.com
  • In murder's wake

    A family is destroyed, a killer gets a new day in court, and a book tells the story
  • First of two parts: A family is destroyed, a killer gets a new day in court, and a book tells the story.
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  • »  RELATED CONTENT
    • The Gilley Murders, a two-day series
      Today: A lifetime of abuse culminates in a horrific crime
      Tomorrow: A verdict for one Gilley, a new life for the other
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      The Gilley Murders, a two-day series
      Today: A lifetime of abuse culminates in a horrific crime

      Tomorrow: A verdict for one Gilley, a new life for the other
  • Jody Gilley awoke from a deep sleep. Her brother, 18-year-old Billy Frank Gilley Jr., was pushing their 11-year-old sister, Becky, into Jody's attic bedroom. It was the night of April 26, 1984.
    "Keep Becky up here," he said.
    The way Jody remembers it, Becky didn't want to stay. She went downstairs. Then Jody heard screams. There were frightening noises, pounding sounds.
    Billy came back up to Jody's room. His bare chest and arms were spattered with blood. He said their parents were dead.
    "We're free," he said.
    Jody's 16-year-old mind wanted to believe it wasn't real, that it was happening in one of the books in which she sought refuge from her dysfunctional family. She was afraid Billy might kill her, too. She put on some clothes and walked down the stairs. To get outside she had to walk by Becky, lying in the shadows. Becky moaned. Jody didn't say anything. She was afraid Billy might hit her again with his baseball bat.
    It was a cold night. Billy and Jody got in their father's blue Ranchero, and Billy drove from the family's home on Ross Lane in Medford to the nearby house of a friend of Jody's. It was about 1:30 a.m. The teens talked and played gin rummy. At about a quarter to three Billy left to buy cigarettes at a 7-Eleven. Jody called 9-1-1.
    "My brother beat my mom and dad and sister to death with a baseball bat," she said.
    The 9-1-1 operator asked why he would do that.
    Jody answered, "I don't know. I mean, there's been a lot ... we have had a lot of, um, family problems, but I never think anything bad enough to actually kill 'em."
    ***
    Billy Gilley, now heavyset and balding at 43, sits behind glass in the visiting room at the Jackson County Jail.
    "I don't like media coverage," he says into a jailhouse phone. "You're talking about stuff that happened 24 years ago. I'd be happy if I never heard of it again."
    After years of appealing his sentence — three consecutive life terms with a minimum of 30 years each — Gilley in May was granted the right to a resentencing hearing by the U.S. District Court in Portland, a decision the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld on grounds that Gilley did not have effective legal representation. Judge Ron Grensky set Gilley's next hearing for Aug. 21. Judge Ray White is slated to preside.
    "This winds the clock back," says Paul Beneke, the public defense lawyer who represents Gilley. "He's back where he was 24 years ago — awaiting sentencing."
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