Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 46° Partly Cloudy
News >  Idaho

Shooting defendants to be tried together

Associated Press

MOSCOW, Idaho — The three principal defendants charged in the shooting death of a University of Idaho football player will be tried together in May.

Second District Judge John Bradbury of Grangeville ordered the trial Friday.

Brothers Matthew R. Wells, 27, and James J. Wells, 25, both of Seattle, are charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 19 shooting death of Eric McMillan.

Their nephew, Thomas Riggins, 23, of Kent, Wash., is charged with conspiracy and being a principal to the murder.

Each is being held in the Latah County Jail, and all were seeking separate trials. Public defenders argued for separate trials while Latah Canyon County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Robin Eckmann moved for a joined trial at the beginning of the month. She said joining the cases would reduce redundancy, eliminate unnecessary expense for the state and reduce any burden on witnesses.

“We are talking literally about the identical same evidence,” Eckmann said of the state’s cases against the three men.

Bradbury decided to set the joint trial date for May 23 on the condition that he might change his mind if the cases go in different directions.

“These cases look like they ought to be joined,” attorney Tom Whitney, who represents James Wells, told the judge. “We admit that.” But Whitney said the judge might consider having three separate juries instead.

Bradbury considered a motion by Matthew Wells’ attorneys, Charles Kovis and Tim Gresback of Moscow, asking for a change of venue. The two lawyers argued pretrial publicity has made it impossible for their client to receive a fair trial.

Whitney and public defender Greg Dickison, who represents Riggins, told Bradbury their clients were more likely to get a fair trial in Moscow.

Six defendants have been charged with perjury before a grand jury investigating the case. A younger Wells brother, 23-year-old Aaron, is also charged with accessory to murder.

McMillan, 19, was shot in the chest at his Moscow apartment. Matthew and James Wells were arrested hours after the shooting near Vantage, Wash., after allegedly leading authorities on a high-speed chase. Witnesses reported seeing the brothers near the apartment complex.

A grand jury took testimony from more than 70 witnesses before handing down indictments. No murder weapon has been found and authorities have not made public any kind of motive, other than the shooting may have stemmed from an altercation the night before.

Jury selection for the joint murder trial will begin on May 20. Bradbury said he expected to have a jury selected within one day.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.