A Post Falls man who killed a Spokane Valley resident last year with a shotgun blast to the head will serve nine years in prison.
Christopher C. Gober, 20, pleaded guilty last week to first-degree manslaughter for the death of Jeremy Moore on Dec. 23, 1997.
Gober originally was charged with first-degree murder.
Spokane County prosecutors said contradictory statements by their key witness forced them to accept the lesser plea.
Gober insisted he acted in self-defense when he fired a shotgun at close range at the 20-year-old Moore, whom he had known for several months before the shooting.
If Gober had been convicted of first-degree murder, he could have been sentenced for up to 36 years in prison.
Deputy Prosecutor Andy Metts said it was still possible to win a first-degree murder conviction if the case had gone to trial.
Metts said he would have pointed out contradictions between Gober’s account of the shooting and evidence from the scene.
“But our problem was there were enough inconsistencies (in other witness statements) that reasonable doubt could have been raised at a trial,” Metts said.
Sheriff’s deputies say Moore was killed in his Spokane Valley apartment after Gober and two other men came to visit him.
Gober contended that Moore had stolen a handgun and a shotgun from their mutual friend, Edward Alan Burrow, 22.
Gober, Burrow and another man, Gary Olive, 30, came to Moore’s apartment at 10101 E. Main, planning to take back the guns stolen by Moore, said Gober’s defense attorney Dennis Dressler.
Gober told police Moore went to the back bedroom, followed by the three visitors. Once there, an argument started and Moore struck Burrow above the eye with a handgun, according to Gober.
Gober was unarmed and feared for his life, his attorney said. So Gober grabbed a short-barreled shotgun lying on the bedroom floor and shot Moore, Dressler said.
Deputy Prosecutor Metts said Gober’s story doesn’t match evidence from the scene.
“The gun he said he grabbed off the bedroom floor was purchased only the day before. And it was purchased by Alan Burrow from a Coeur d’Alene gun shop,” Metts said.
Moore’s roommate, Kevin Heaton, told police a story that differed from accounts of other witnesses, Metts added.
“He was our star witness,” Metts said.
The plea bargain allows for Gober to serve his manslaughter term concurrently with two sentences he received this year in Idaho.
He was sentenced in January to two five-year prison terms for aggravated assault and intimidating a witness in connection with a spring 1997 drive-by shooting in Coeur d’Alene.
He could have served those terms in about three years with good conduct, according to Idaho prison officials.
Now, he’ll be able to serve those Idaho terms concurrent to the nine-year Washington sentence, Dressler said.
Gober remains in Spokane County Jail until it’s decided where he’ll serve his time.
“I don’t know if Idaho will take him back and have him serve there first, or if Washington will get him,” Dressler said.
Olive and Burrow, also originally charged with firstdegree murder, ended up pleading guilty to first-degree rendering criminal assistance.
Both were given six-month sentences for that felony crime.
Both Olive and Burrow have already spent enough time in jail that they’ve been released and are on community supervision, said Metts.