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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: William Nichols

Man sentenced for ‘07 murder in Hillyard

A man who pleaded guilty to murder before his conviction was overturned because of a procedural error repeatedly denied involvement in the crime Wednesday as he was sentenced to 39 years in prison.

 “I admit I am a criminal, but a murderer I am not,” said Michael Duke Coombes, 34.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese cited his lack of remorse when agreeing to the maximum sentence recommended by deputy prosecutors Steve Garvin and Kyle Treece. The 476-month sentence includes a 60-month firearm enhancement.

“How can you have remorse for something you didn't do?” asked Coombes, who had previously been sentenced to 27 years. “I can't show remorse because I wasn't there.”

Plese also cited Coombes' criminal history, and the fact that he illegally possessed a firearm when he was arrested for the Aug. 31, 2007, shooting death of William “Red” Nichols, 53, in Hillyard.

Coombes, who tattooed an image of the gun that he used to kill Nichols on his leg, previously pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, but his sentencing documents erroneously did not indicate he would be eligible for time off for good behavior during his first 20 years.

Appellate judges allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea and Coombes decided to take the case to trial. A jury convicted him of first-degree murder Dec. 19. He also was convicted of witness tampering for asking another inmate at the Spokane County Jail to contact a witness.

Garvin said at trial that Coombes said he shot Nichols in the head because he threatened his nephew.

Coombes' mother told Plese Wednesday that she believes her son is innocent. Nichols' niece read a statement on behalf of her mother that condemned Coombes and said the family does not forgive him.

Coombes was represented by public defender Jeff Compton.

Jury convicts man of ‘07 fatal shooting

A jury on Monday found a man guilty of first-degree murder in connection with the 2007 slaying of a man in Hillyard.

As a result, Michael D. Coombes (pictured) faces about seven more years in prison than he would have under an earlier plea agreement, which he was allowed to withdraw because of a technical error.

 Coombes, who tattoed an image of the gun that he used to kill 53-year-old William “Red” Nichols on his leg, hung his head just after Superior Court Judge Annette Plese read the jury’s decision.

“I’m very pleased, very happy with the outcome,” said Nichols’ sister, Joselle Kuntz of Reardan. “Finally, we can move on.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 14: Trial begins in man's shooting death

Oct. 4: Witness tampering alleged before murder trial

Trial begins in man’s shooting death

The trial began Tuesday of a Spokane man who pleaded guilty to a Hillyard slaying in 2007 but was allowed to withdraw the plea after a mistake was made on his sentencing paperwork.

 Michael D. Coombes, 31, faces a charge of first-degree murder in connection with the Aug. 31, 2007, slaying of 53-year-old William “Red” Nichols, whose body was found near Beacon Hill.

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Garvin said in court that Coombes told several people, including two Spokane police detectives, he shot Nichols in the head. Coombes is also charged with tampering with a witness and intimidating a witness.

“We will prove motive, means, opportunity and many confessions by Mr. Coombes,” Garvin said.

But defense attorney Jeff Compton told the jury that all of the witnesses who incriminated Coombes did so only when police threatened them with arrest.

“You are going into a world where you see people every day who are drunk or under the influence of drugs,” Compton said. “Keep an open mind.”

The intimidating-a-witness charge came after inmate Tevan Williams shared a cell with Coombes for about a week, Compton said. Williams claimed that Coombes admitted killing Nichols and asked Williams to tell a key witness to say he made up the allegations against Coombes.

“That statement rests solely on someone who has convictions for dishonesty, and he did it to get a deal,” Compton said.

Coombes earlier pleaded guilty to the killing, but his sentencing paperwork contained a mistake – a box that wasn’t checked. As a result, appellate judges returned the case to Spokane County Superior Court, and Coombes withdrew his guilty plea, Garvin said.

Past coverage:

Oct. 4: Witness tampering alleged before murder trial


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.

Court says killer can withdraw guilty plea

A Spokane man who pleaded guilty to a 2007 murder has been allowed to withdraw his guilty plea because prosecutors failed to tell him he had to spend a minimum of 20 years in prison before he would be eligible for early release.

The Division III Court of Appeals issued its decision Thursday to allow Michael D. Coombes to withdraw the plea because he was not “informed of a direct consequence of his plea.

” Coombes, 30, pleaded guilty to killing 53-year-old William R. Nichols sometime between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2, 2007.

Coombes pleaded guilty in June 2008 and received a 27-year prison sentence.

However, he appealed his sentence because he had the mistaken belief that he was eligible to begin early release credit during the entire sentence, according to court documents.

The portion of his plea that explained the minimum 20-year sentence was left blank in the court file. The case now returns to Superior Court Judge Michael Price to allow Coombes to withdraw his plea.

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