A man facing multiple attempted murder charges for firing three gunshots into a Talent house in 2011 pleaded guilty Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court to three weapons charges and was sentenced to more than five years in prison.
Aaron Daniel Adrian Merlina, 30, apologized for his actions before pleading guilty before Judge Timothy Gerking to two counts of unlawful use of a weapon and a single count of being a felon in possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to 70 months in prison. He will be given credit for the 17 months he has been held in the Jackson County Jail on $750,000 bail since the incident.
"I'm extremely remorseful," Merlina said, adding accepting the plea agreement was the "road he needed to take to get back to his son."
Merlina was facing up to 20 years behind bars if convicted of the Measure 11 charges. Two counts of attempted aggravated murder, six counts of attempted murder, eight additional counts of unlawful use of a weapon, one count of attempted second-degree assault, three counts of reckless endangerment, and another count of being a felon in possession of a weapon were dropped in the plea agreement that was still being negotiated late Monday afternoon between Jackson County prosecutor David Hoppe and Bend defense attorney Foster Glass.
Talent police say Merlina showed up at the home of Dyana Rodrigues, 33, and Gerald Blake Wooley, 28, in the 100 block of South First Street at 6:45 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day in 2011. An altercation ensued that was a continuation of a fight that had occurred the previous night at Merlina's home, said Talent police Chief Mike Moran at the time of the alleged incident.
Merlina allegedly fired three shots into the home with a small-caliber handgun before leaving the scene with an unidentified individual.
Two of the shots went through a window and one went through the front door. No one was hurt, but Rodrigues' 11-year-old daughter was showered with glass after shots came through a window near where she had been sleeping.
Glass said his client had "gone off the deep end." But Merlina had "never intended to kill anyone," he said.
Glass said Merlina suffers from post-traumatic stress due to an event in his childhood. Merlina's sister was kidnapped out of their home and sexually assaulted when he was just 10 years old, Glass said.
He also said Merlina received threats toward himself and his child, which triggered his actions. He sent a text stating, "I ought to come over and put one right between your eyes," and later fired the shots, Glass said.
"There's some mitigating factors," Glass said. "But we're just lucky somebody wasn't killed."
Hoppe said the victims, who did not attend Merlina's sentencing, were not cooperative. Merlina received stiffer than typical sentences for his guilty pleas because he has prior criminal convictions, and because of the serious nature of his actions.
Merlina had been expected to plead guilty in late February to four counts of unlawful use of a weapon and one count of being a felon in possession of a weapon. But in court that day he refused to accept a plea his public defender and Hoppe had spent 14 months negotiating.
The deal offered Merlina a 70-month sentence for his five guilty pleas — which carried 14-month sentences that were slated to run consecutively. But Merlina said he wanted a jury trial and a new lawyer.
In the end, he got the same 70-month sentence. Glass said he advised Merlina to accept Monday's plea agreement based on the state's evidence, and the risk of decades-long incarceration.
Hoppe said while the new agreement provides the same prison time, the state agreed to drop two counts of unlawful use of a weapon, which will allow Merlina to participate in prison programs.
"This is a well-negotiated plea agreement," Hoppe said.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.