Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Parole denied in Ketchum murder case

Odiaga to spend another 15 years in prison

Express Staff Writer

Former Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling, at left, escorts Mitchel John Odiaga to court in this 1990 photograph. To the right is Deputy Ed Fuller, who is now chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Office. Express file photo

    Many current residents weren’t here in 1990, but those who were no doubt remember the night that Mitchel John Odiaga went on a shooting rampage in Ketchum, killing two men and injuring a third.
    Now, almost 24 years later, Odiaga remains an inmate at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution in Kuna.
    He eventually ended up with a 24-year-to-life prison sentence. But with 24 years approaching since the murders, Odiaga was reaching parole eligibility. He had a hearing Monday at the prison before the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole.
    But instead of granting parole, the commission decided that Odiaga needed to spend another 15 years in prison before he’s eligible again.
    Odiaga, from Boise, was 35 at the time of the murders. He’s now 59 and will be 74 when he next comes up for parole.
    Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson and Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle attended Monday’s hearing. Williamson was Blaine County prosecuting attorney at the time of the murders and Haemmerle was his deputy.
    “I was pleased with the decision both denying the parole and extending the sentence another 15 years,” Williamson said Tuesday. “The victims’ families were quite relieved.
    “The commission was focused on his remorse, but they didn’t hear any at all. One commissioner told him, ‘I didn’t hear any remorse—all I heard was me, me, me.’

We’re pleased that he won’t get out for another 15 years, and I don’t think he’ll be getting out then either.”
Fritz Haemmerle
Former prosecutor

    “He continues to maintain his innocence. But he really didn’t explain it. But there’s no doubt that he killed two people and injured another man. He claims that he took 36 Sudafeds before the shooting. He remembered shooting [Shenandoah] Wright and then he said he blacked out.”
    Sudafed, a cold relief medication, is a key ingredient in the production of methamphetamine.
    Gerald “Shenandoah” Wright, a 46-year-old longtime Ketchum resident, was Odiaga’s first victim. Driving an Oldsmobile, Odiaga killed Wright with a single shot to the chest from a .30-06 hunting rifle at about 10 p.m. on June 22, 1990, at the intersection of East Avenue and Fourth Street.
    A few minutes later, he killed Bruce Tate Shafer, a 23-year-old Burley man, with a single shot to the head on Fifth Street between Washington and First avenues.
    According to police reports, Odiaga then drove to Warm Springs Road, climbed out of his vehicle and aimed the rifle at Jerry Johnson, a 40-year-old Ketchum resident, as Johnson was driving by. Johnson saw the rifle and ducked but was cut by flying glass as the bullet shattered the driver’s side window.
    With police closing in, Odiaga, back in his vehicle, slammed through a police roadblock on Warm Springs Road, exchanging shots with officers. A 25-mile chase up state Highway 75 north of Ketchum ended when Odiaga rolled his vehicle and surrendered peacefully to police.
    According to newspaper accounts of the murders, Odiaga didn’t deny shooting the men but claimed he was innocent because he was insane and because voices told him to do it.
    Odiaga was not acquainted with any of the victims. Apparently, they were random targets.
    A jury trial was delayed until August 1991 while a determination was made that Odiaga was competent to stand trial.
    After an 11-day trial, he was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, one count of attempted second-degree murder, one count of aggravated assault and one count of a sentencing enhancement for use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
    However, in 1994, the Idaho Supreme Court ordered that a new trial be held because of errors committed by the court during the first trial.
    Instead of a new trial, though, Odiaga entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to the same charges that he was earlier convicted of in exchange for a lesser sentence.
    “I told myself 24 years ago that when Mitch came up for parole that I would be at that hearing,” Haemmerle said Monday. “I’d say they deliberated no more than five minutes. Suffice it to say that as one of the prosecutors in this case, I’m delighted.
    “We’re pleased that he won’t get out for another 15 years, and I don’t think he’ll be getting out then either.”
Terry Smith:

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