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Judge gives transient six years in beating death

A man convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the beating death of fellow transient was sentenced Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court to six years, three months in prison.

Richard Lee Pruitt's conviction in the Measure 11 crime was handed down by a Jackson County jury on Feb. 8 in Judge William G. Purdy's courtroom.

Pruitt also will serve three years post-prison supervision and must pay restitution for Darin Lynn Drake 's funeral expenses, said Jackson County Senior Deputy Attorney Tim Barnack.

Barnack said the victim's sister, who was not present at the sentencing, was "pleased with the result, but saddened by her loss."

Pruitt and his family members declined to comment.

Pruitt faced a murder charge after he rejected a plea offer from the state that would have reduced his charge to first-degree manslaughter. Purdy had instructed the jurors before deliberations that they may consider lesser charges ranging from first- and second-degree manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide. Only a finding of criminally negligent homicide would have spared Pruitt from mandatory sentencing guidelines in the case. The jury, composed of eight men and four women, deliberated for about three hours Friday before reaching its verdict.

Pruitt's defense attorney, Rebecca Rosenstein, said at Wednesday's sentencing that the jury did a very good job with a very difficult case.

Barnack presented the case against Pruitt, who killed Drake by kicking and stomping him sometime after the two men (and Pruitt's girlfriend, Alexis Fehlman), shared a bottle of vodka near the Interstate 5 southbound Central Point exit in September 2006, Barnack said.

A clean-shaven and well-dressed Pruitt testified on his own behalf during the four-day trial. He admitted the three had been drinking together, but insisted he did not kill — or engage in any sort of altercation — with Drake. Drake's face was bloody, Pruitt said, but he was alive and sleeping the next morning when he and Fehlman returned to the area to retrieve Pruitt's backpack.

Fehlman also testified that Drake was alive the last time the two saw him, and that investigators had intimidated her into implicating Pruitt. Fehlman had been held as a material witness in the case since May. She was released from custody Friday and attended Pruitt's sentencing. Fehlman testified during the trial that she loves Pruitt. On Wednesday, she said she intends to follow him to wherever he serves his sentence.

"I just want to get out of Medford," she said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.