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20-year sentence for road rage murder

A man who shot a retired teacher to death in a 2002 road-rage case has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after an appellate court overturned his earlier conviction.

Christopher W. Conklin, 31, was sentenced last week to 240 months in prison with credit for nearly 10 years served in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and second-degree assault before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor.

The Washington Court of Appeals overturned his first-degree murder conviction last year because Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins failed to tell Conklin that he could withdraw his plea after an error in his plea bargain was discovered.

Conklin was 21 when a Suburban he was driving struck a minivan that turned onto Division Street from Empire Avenue. Police said it wasn’t clear which driver was at fault, but Conklin then deliberately sideswiped the minivan and forced it to stop.

The minivan driver, Richard Laws, and three independent witnesses said Conklin pistol-whipped Laws and killed his passenger, 64-year-old Melvin J. Hendrickson, with a gunshot intended for Laws.

Past coverage:

March 11, 2011: Murder conviction in road rage case overturned

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