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Woman gets at least 30 years in uncle’s murder

Fri., May 25, 2012, 8:41 a.m.

ST. MARIES — A mentally ill woman who shot and beat her uncle last year and burned his body in a fire pit has been sentenced to 30 years to life for his murder.

Melisa R. Bates was sentenced Thursday by 5th District Court Judge Fred Gibler.

Last month, following court-ordered mediation, the 28-year-old Bates entered an Alford plea to second-degree murder in the May 15, 2011 death of 43-year-old Robert R. Marek of St. Maries. In an Alford plea, the defendant doesn’t admit guilt, but acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to gain a conviction.

Gibler cited a recent mental-health evaluation of Bates, which “strongly recommended” that she be held in a secure facility because she poses a significant risk to the community.

Defense attorney Will Butler says Bates’ mental illness began showing up in her early teens.

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