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Cave Junction man gets life for slaying of man he called 'dad'

A Cave Junction man who gunned down a man he once considered a father figure was sentenced Thursday to life in prison.

Stranger Davis, 30, must serve a minimum of 25 years before he becomes eligible for parole in the 2014 ambush-slaying of Michael "Dirty" MacDonald, 61, outside his cabin on Rockydale Road.

The sentence was handed down by Josephine County Circuit Court Judge Lindi Baker, who convicted Davis of murder March 1 after a two-week bench trial.

At the hearing, Baker commended the defendant's composure throughout the process. Davis had argued at trial he suffered from a mental state that prevented him from understanding his actions, and in early hearings in the case his behavior was sometimes erratic.

"Your conduct … during the trial has been very compliant with the court proceedings," Baker told the defendant. "I am pleased that this process has concluded and pleased with you accepting accountability for your conduct."

Davis thanked the judge and even his prosecutors, District Attorney Ryan Mulkins and Deputy District Attorney Matt Corey, before the hearing began.

Davis gave a final statement before the sentence was handed down.

"First off, this is not the solution," he said of the slaying. "Nobody else should ever have to take this step. I want everyone to know there is hope. … You are not alone."

Nobody appeared on behalf of the victim.

At trial, Davis did not dispute that, in broad daylight on Aug. 2, 2014, he walked up to MacDonald and wordlessly shot him to death. He was arrested several days later in Paradise, California, a town near Chico where his mother lives.

His trial focused not on whether Davis committed the crime or how, but whether Davis' mental health issues rose to the level of insanity and prevented him from realizing the criminality of his actions.

Davis asserted that MacDonald needed to die, claiming the victim was a ringleader in underground organized criminal activities in the Illinois Valley that included the disappearances of people and a vast government conspiracy.

Although Davis told investigators MacDonald was a longtime acquaintance whom he once called "Dad," he also claimed MacDonald persuaded him and others to commit a number of violent crimes over the last two decades.

Baker rejected his defense and found him guilty of murder as well as a felony firearms charge.

Davis was sentenced to 30 months in prison on the gun charge, which will run concurrent to the life sentence for murder. If he qualifies after serving 25 years in prison, Davis will be on parole for the rest of his life.

Davis had a prior criminal history that included prison time in 2004 for assaulting an officer. Information at that time was that he nearly bit a deputy's finger off.

The extent of MacDonald's criminal record was never made clear. Local court records showed only a single arrest for possession of methamphetamine months before the shooting, but also suggested he was on parole and had a lengthy failure-to-appear history. Moreover, the ramshackle 10-acre property where he lived on Rockydale Road was known to police as a hub for selling stolen property.

MacDonald also was once named as a person of interest in the 2013 killing of Aaron Clouser in Cave Junction. Another man, Daniel Martinson, was later arrested and convicted of negligent homicide in that case.

Prosecutors said MacDonald was a witness to Clouser's slaying and that his untimely death at Davis' hands undercut their murder case against Martinson, forcing a plea deal.

— Reach reporter Troy Shinn at 541-474-3806 or tshinn@thedailycourier.com