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Sirens & Gavels

Tue., Oct. 4, 2011, 8 a.m.

Tampering alleged before murder trial

A Spokane man whose guilty plea was overturned because of a sentencing error is accused of trying to intimidate a witness in his upcoming trial.

Michael Duke Coombes, 31, appeared in court Monday on a witness tampering charge after investigators say he asked another inmate at the Spokane County Jail to contact a man expected to testify at his trial in November.

The man, identified in documents as Eric Nelson, testified at Coombes’ first trial that Coombes had described killing the victim, 53-year-old William R. Nichols, by shooting him in the head.

Coombes allegedly gave notes to the inmate, Tevan T. Williams, convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, that encouraged him to “either let me know where he’s at, or shut him up before I go to trial....he just has to say I made it up and I'm home free,” according to court documents.

Coombes included Nelson's parents' addresses in his note to Williams and emphasized that Nelson's original interviews with police about the murder were voluntary, documents allege.

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