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Man who shot son-in-law near Colville pleads guilty to manslaughter, gets 7 years in prison

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 24, 2019

The Stevens County Courthouse in Colville is seen in this January 2019 photo. A man detained at the border crossing near Northport had his criminal drug convictions erased by the Washington Supreme Court on Thursday, after justices said his rights were violated by federal agents. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
The Stevens County Courthouse in Colville is seen in this January 2019 photo. A man detained at the border crossing near Northport had his criminal drug convictions erased by the Washington Supreme Court on Thursday, after justices said his rights were violated by federal agents. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A 73-year-old man who shot and killed his son-in-law near Colville last winter was sentenced this week to more than seven years in prison.

Stevens County Superior Court Judge Jessica Reeves sentenced James C. Gates on Monday after he pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter for the death of 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 hit man 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.

Gates, who lived in Spokane, was held in the Stevens County Jail and scheduled to stand trial for second-degree murder when he took the plea deal.

County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said he recommended Gates’ 88-month prison sentence, which could equal a life sentence due to his age. Gates was sentenced to spend three years on probation after his release from prison.

Gates’ attorney, Tim Trageser, declined to comment Thursday.

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