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Miskell pleads guilty to murder

A Medford man pleaded guilty to murder Tuesday in the November shooting death of a Phoenix man.

William Ray Miskell, 26, of the 500 block of Plum Street, apologized in court to the family of Jose Velasco, 34, whom he shot and killed during a botched robbery attempt.

I know they don't want to hear it, but I'm going to apologize, he said.

When Miskell entered the guilty plea in Jackson County Circuit Court, an aggravated-murder charge and two counts of first-degree robbery were dismissed.

Aggravated murder is the state's most serious offense and is punishable by death. It can be charged in murders that happen during another crime ' robbery in this case ' or in the slaying of a police officer, the murder of a child younger than 14 or the killing of more than one person in the same criminal act.

— Judge Bill Purdy sentenced Miskell to life in prison with no possibility of parole until he has served 25 years.

We will never forgive him, but we are glad justice will be served, Fernando Velasco, the victim's brother, told the court.

Prosecutors claimed that Miskell shot and killed Velasco with a handgun on Nov. 29 while he and two friends, Jennifer Deetee James, 23, and Christopher Scott Bailey, 20, were trying to rob the 34-year-old waiter at his home in Coleman Creek Estates off Fern Valley Road. James instigated the plot to steal drugs and money from Velasco to get even with him after he offered her drugs in exchange for sexual favors, investigators said.

James and Bailey each pleaded guilty in Circuit Court on May 7 to charges of first-degree robbery and were ordered to spend 15 years in prison.

Outside the courtroom Tuesday, Miskell's sister, Samantha Chaparro, wiped away tears as friends and family stood by.

Justice is served, but my brother is not a bad guy, she said. His five nieces and nephews know he's not a bad guy.

This case represents a tragedy for two families, Miskell's attorney Gregory Hazarabedian said. The Velasco family mourns the untimely death of Jose, and Willie's sister and family are grieving here now.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail