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Clemency still sought for husband killer

Supporters of Wendy Maldonado are wondering if Gov. John Kitzhaber will commute her 10-year prison sentence for killing her husband in 2005 to defend herself and her children from extreme abuse.

 Local attorneys Mark Lansing and Jason Brouhard filed for clemency in August 2012, and now that two years have passed, Maldonado has less than two years left on her sentence, which she's serving at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville.

 At the time of the 2012 request, Lansing said the governor's office wrote him to say it could take up to six months to review the application.

 Today, all the governor's staff will say is, "Wendy Maldonado's case is currently under review," in an email.

 "It's disappointing to me that Kitzhaber doesn't have the courage to just come out and say he's not willing to give her clemency," Lansing said. "This idea that he's still thinking about it, that sounds like a political statement."

 The family feels the same.

 "I've called the Governor's office several times," said Michelle Ross, Maldonado's sister. "They say it's still under consideration, but they're not held to any kind of response time.

 "I called the clemency coordinator and we flat-out asked, 'is your non-response a refusal?' Wendy's resigned to the fact that she's probably there for the long haul."

Kitzhaber, running for his fourth term as governor this fall, granted four of 528 clemency applications received during his first eight years in office.

 In his current four-year term, 180 requests have been either denied or withdrawn, and 226 are still pending, according to his staff.

 Maldonado backers believe if anyone deserves clemency it's her.

 Maldonado went to prison in March, 2006, convicted of killing her abusive husband, Aaron Maldonado.

 Her son Randall, then 17, also served five years for the killing, done by the pair with an ax and hammer on May 1, 2005, on Elmer Nelson Lane near Rogue Community College.

 In court, they said they were protecting themselves from physical and emotional abuse, which Judge Michael Newman called "the worst any of us have ever seen."

 The case drew nationwide attention with an HBO TV special about the case. Web pages sprang up supporting the Maldonados.

 "She's spent too much time in prison already," Lansing said.

 In a 2012 interview, Lansing said, "This was a time of war, the stuff this guy was doing."

Court records indicate there were multiple beatings, broken teeth, burning and choking, along with rapes.

A clemency petition was filed in 2009 for Maldonado, by a Willamette University law professor and students, who focused on lack of action of police in the case, Lansing said. Gov. Ted Kulongoski denied that request.

"Our petition was different, focusing much more on how Wendy had no choice," Lansing said.

Kulongoski granted 13 of 162 clemency requests in his term, but just two of 158 classified as sentence commutations.

Before Kitzhaber and Kulongoski, Gov. Barbara Roberts approved 15 of 177 clemency requests during her four years in office.

The family of Aaron Maldonado doesn't believe Wendy Maldonado deserves clemency.

Maribeth Bishop is Aaron's aunt.

"Regardless of the choices of her life, everyone has a choice and she made a choice to take someone's life," Bishop told KTVL-TV in 2013. "What the family wants to make known is there isn't any reason for Wendy to get out early. She agreed to it."

Lansing argued that Maldonado agreed to a plea deal to keep Randy out of prison for life.

"They were threatening her son with lifetime imprisonment if she didn't take the deal," Lansing said. "That's not really a choice, is it?"

 Reach Daily Courier reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.com.

Wendy Maldonado, shown in court in 2006, has been in jail for eight years after being convicted of her killing abusive husband. Daily Courier photo