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Tuesday, March 26, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Colville suspect James Gates pleads not guilty to second-degree murder

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 11, 2019, 6:51 p.m.

This May 22, 2018, photo shows the Stevens County Courthouse in Colville, Washington. James C. Gates, 72, pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 28 death of 51-year-old Mark Leland. (Chad Sokol / The Spokesman-Review)
This May 22, 2018, photo shows the Stevens County Courthouse in Colville, Washington. James C. Gates, 72, pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 28 death of 51-year-old Mark Leland. (Chad Sokol / The Spokesman-Review)

The 72-year-old man accused of shooting and killing his son-in-law last month near Colville pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder Friday and has indicated he acted in self-defense.

James C. Gates, who lives in Spokane, is accused of killing 51-year-old Mark Leland.

Leland had been married to Gates’ daughter, Michele, who killed two children while she was a juvenile in Portland, in 1978 and 1980. She later spent 15 years in federal custody for attempting to hire a hitman to kill a woman and burn down her house.

Mark and Michele Leland lived in Glendora, California, with two young daughters. According to court records, they had been visiting a home on Westover Road south of Colville for the holidays when Gates shot Mark Leland twice in the abdomen on the night of Dec. 28.

Gates claimed he had acted in self-defense, though Leland gave deputies a conflicting account while he lay bleeding on the floor of the garage, according to court records. An ambulance arrived shortly afterward and took Leland to Providence Mount Carmel Hospital in Colville, where he died later that night.

Michele Leland, who was released from federal supervision in 2008, and Susan Alexander, a resident of the home near Colville, told deputies they had been inside and had not witnessed the shooting. Deputies described Michele Leland, Alexander and Gates as stoic and emotionless during the ordeal.

During his arraignment, Judge Jessica Reeves kept Gates’ bond set at $250,000. He was still listed on the Stevens County Jail roster on Friday. He’s banned from speaking with his daughter and Alexander. If released, he must remain within Spokane and Stevens counties.

His attorney, Tim Trageser, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.

Leland’s brother, Robert Leland, lives in Liberty Lake. He said they grew up in Spanaway, Washington, and Mark Leland was a superintendent for a heavy construction company, most recently working on an underground freeway tunnel in Los Angeles.

Robert Leland said he and his brother fell out of regular contact about 10 years ago, when Mark and Michele married.

“Once we found out about her past, we were not comfortable with including her in our close-knit family,” Robert Leland said.

As for what happened on the night of his brother’s death, Robert Leland said he doesn’t know much more than what’s been reported in the newspaper.

“The whole thing is just unreal,” he said.

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