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Myers guilty on all counts
A seven-woman, five-man jury has convicted Daniel Myers of murdering Travis Weems by shooting him in the chest with a high-powered rifle on Jan. 27, 2011, at Myers’ home on Cracker Creek Road near Sumpter.
Judge Greg Baxter called the 56-year-old Myers to court via video link before summoning the jury and reading the verdicts about 11 a.m. Thursday.
Myers has remained at the Baker County Jail throughout the trial, which began Feb. 21. His court-appointed attorney, Mark Rader of Ontario, again, as he has throughout the trial, asked Baxter to delay the trial or grant a mistrial before the jury was called to the courtroom to present the verdicts to the judge.
Baxter again denied Rader’s request.
The jury was unanimous on all counts in convicting Myers of murder, unlawful use of a weapon, possession of a firearm by a felon and unlawful delivery and possession of methamphetamine.
Jurors also voted unanimously to convict Myers of commercial drug offenses in conjunction with the methamphetamine crimes, based on packaging materials and drug records found on his property.
The verdicts were met with tears by Weems’ family members and friends.
Among those at the Courthouse Thursday were Weems’ two children, Charlie, 16, and Case, 13, and his wife of 19 years, Nicole, all of Burley, Idaho.
Weems’ aunt, Rita Flyg, said after the sentencing that she was grateful for the jury’s decision.
“We appreciate what the verdict was,” she said. “This is a terrible, terrible thing. We are grateful that justice has been done. We’re grateful in a terrible situation.”
Flyg returned to her home in Washington on Thursday.
“You can’t be happy because you’re boy’s gone,” she said. “But justice is served.”
Rader met with Myers after the verdict was announced to ask if he wanted to wait two days before sentencing, as the law allows. In a brief hearing Thursday afternoon, Rader said his client was ready to be sentenced immediately. District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff, however, asked that sentencing be delayed to allow Weems’ family members to attend. Baxter set sentencing for 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Circuit Courtroom.
The murder charge carries a mandatory minimum 25-year prison term. Sentencing on the other crimes will be based on Myers’ criminal history.
Jurors began deliberating about 1:45 p.m. Wednesday after hearing closing arguments from Shirtcliff and Rader. Jurors were dismissed at 5:40 p.m. and returned to the Courthouse at 9 a.m. Thursday. They had reached their verdict by 10:52 a.m.
In his closing, Shirtcliff asked the jury to look at the evidence and let their common sense guide them during deliberations.
“This is a case about a defendant who went on attack, stuck a barrel of a gun in a car and shot someone,” Shirtcliff told the jury.
Weems died in the passenger seat of a Toyota Corolla parked on Myers’ property at about 3 a.m. on Jan. 27. Jamie Walchli, whom Shirtcliff described as Weems’ fiancee, was in the driver’s seat of the car when Weems was shot. The two had driven to Myers’ home looking for him and slept in their car because it appeared that Myers was not home, Shirtcliff said.
“He’s stowed away in his trailer,” he said of Myers. “He shot (Weems) because he was mad.”
The shooting was motivated by a debt of $1,650 Myers owed Weems for past drug deals, and by jealousy over Myers’ 19-year-old girlfriend, Melissa Winston, Shirtcliff said. Winston and Erik Mountain both lived on the property and were involved in transporting drugs from the Hermiston area, Shirtcliff said.
“(Myers and Winston) argued for three days and he’s thinking she slept with the guy in the driveway who he ends up shooting,” Shirtcliff said.
In recounting testimony, the district attorney reminded the jury of Walchli’s statement that she and Weems were awakened to the sound of someone bashing the car window.
And although the details are unclear, Shirtcliff said it is apparent that what happened next happened quickly.
“He bashed the windshield and Mr. Weems reaches up, like something’s coming at him — boom — and he says, ‘I’ve been shot,’ ” Shirtcliff said. “Those were the last words he ever said in his life.”
Walchli testified that she didn’t see who bashed the car and didn’t hear the gunshot. She called 9-1-1 and drove the car into Sumpter where emergency service workers found Weems dead a short time later.
Shirtcliff disputed any theories put forth by the defense, including that the gun fired accidentally when Weems grabbed the barrel and pulled it toward him.
“It doesn’t match the wound through the lower part of his hand,” Shirtcliff said. “He had his hand cupped or open. That matches what Ms. Walchli saw and it makes common sense.
“The open hand tells you this wasn’t an accident, it was murder,” he said.
After the shooting, Myers returned to his mobile home, Shirtcliff said, and told Mountain that he’d shot and killed Weems. His comment to Winston was that something bad had happened and the less she knew about it the better.
In his closing argument, Rader asked the jury not to use speculation or conjecture during deliberations.
He pointed to demonstrations by Shirtcliff of how Myers might have held the rifle during the shooting.
“He doesn’t know — nobody knows,” Rader said. “There is no science to tell him or anyone else where Mr. Myers was standing and how he held the gun.
“There is no evidence whether Mr. Myers intentionally pulled the trigger or it went off when they were struggling,” he said.
Rader presented a scenario in which Myers, who had been using meth before the shooting, was scared rather than angry.
“It could have been a frightened guy going out to chase someone off the property,” he said.“Ms. Winston said he was paranoid.
“Ms. Walchli was sleeping soundly. Mr. Weems had been using meth — there is no reasonable person here,” Rader said.
Before the jury was called back to the courtroom Wednesday morning, Judge Baxter read a letter that appeared to have been written by Myers, but it was typed and was not signed. The letter detailed more reasons Myers did not want to be represented by Rader during the trial and why he refused to attend the proceedings.
The letter stated that Rader refused to interview anyone who could speak favorably about him or provide information about Weems’ past.
Baxter noted that other letters he had received from Myers had been handwritten on yellow legal notepaper and signed.
“I have questions about whether Mr. Myers wrote it,” Baxter said, adding that it would be included in Myers’ file and entered into the record.