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Suspect in 1999 Central Point shooting death pleads guilty

An accused murderer pleaded guilty Tuesday to shooting Central Point resident Russell Slack in 1999.

Originally charged with murder, Daniel Taylor Jr., 56, pleaded guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court to a lesser count of first-degree manslaughter. Taylor, who also goes by the name of Ron Wesley, will spend 15 years in prison according to a plea agreement with the Jackson County District Attorney's Office, said John Bondurant, deputy district attorney.

Murder carries a minimum prison term of 25 years under Oregon's mandatory sentencing guidelines. The minimum sentence for first-degree manslaughter is 10 years. Taylor is scheduled to hear his sentence at 11 a.m. on Oct. 30 in Circuit Court.

Arrested more than two years after the slaying, Taylor shot 50-year-old Slack once in the chest with a .22-caliber handgun inside Slack's Freeman Road home during the early morning hours of Jan. 3, 1999. Taylor went to Slack's house to collect on a debt, Bondurant said.

It looked like it started out as a threat, and it turned into a shooting, Bondurant said.

Slack died two weeks later at Rogue Valley Medical Center. Lying in his hospital bed, he blinked his eyes to communicate with police, who surmised that Slack was in bed at the time of the shooting and that he did not know his attacker.

Conversations with a local woman pointed Central Point detectives to Taylor, who was described as leading a transient existence. Arrested in a San Rafael, Calif., homeless shelter, Taylor has been in the Jackson County Jail since he was brought back from California in May 2001.

Slack was in the middle of several property disputes at the time of his death, police said. A landlord, he also was suspected of illegally evicting his tenants.

In 1999, police suspected Slack's former tenant, Ted Walton, of killing him after he admitted in court to vandalizing Slack's home several months before his death. Walton later passed a lie detector test and was cleared of Slack's murder.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail