A jury today 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 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.”
Coombes previously pleaded guilty to killing Nichols on Aug. 31, 2007, but in his sentencing documents, someone forgot to check a box indicating that he would not be eligible for time off for good behavior during his first 20 years in prison. Appellate judges returned the case to Superior Court and Coombes elected to take the case to trial.
Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Garvin said Coombes would have faced a total of 41 years if convicted of first-degree murder, intimidating a witness and witness tampering.
However, since the jury acquitted Coombes on the intimidating a witness charge, Garvin said Coombes will face a sentence that will be closer to about 39 years.
Regardless, the sentence will be about seven years more than Coombes would have received in the previous plea agreement, Garvin said.
Plese set the sentencing for 4 p.m. on Jan. 11.
As for Kuntz, she said her brother called her on the night he was killed and asked for a ride, but she couldn’t get away to help.
“Then he did that to my brother,” Kuntz said, referring to Coombes, “and I have to live with that every day.”